Emma Raducanu will finally make her return to competition at Indian Wells on Thursday after being set back by both injury and illness to start her 2023 season. And the British No 1 will be playing for more than just a title as she must start thinking about her Wimbledon hopes already with her ranking under threat of dropping below the cut-off point for the main draw. Having reached the second round of Indian Wells last year, Raducanu must try and defend or better her ranking points at coming tournaments or risk needing a wildcard for her home Grand Slam in July.
Raducanu is set to play her first match since January this week as she has been drawn to face Danka Kovinic in the first round of Indian Wells. The WTA 1000 event is the Brit’s first since the Australian Open, where she lost to seventh seed Coco Gauff in the second round shortly after turning her ankle at the ASB Classic in Auckland and being left with minimal time to prepare in Melbourne.
The 20-year-old has already suffered another setback this week as she pulled out of the Eisenhower Cup exhibition and cancelled her practice session on Tuesday. And her results will now hold extra importance, as Raducanu must try and at least maintain her ranking to ensure she can get into the main draw of Wimbledon this summer or risk the embarrassment of needing a wildcard to compete in her home Grand Slam tournament.
According to The Times, the current world No 77 will need around 650 ranking points to her name when the entry deadline of May 22 hits. While she currently has 784 ranking points, Raducanu is defending 294 of those before the cut-off date for Wimbledon entries – including 65 in Indian Wells. She also has 10 from last year’s Miami Open, leaving the British No 1 needing to try and earn at least 75 during this month’s ‘sunshine double’.
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Although the All England Cub would have no problem giving Raducanu a wildcard if she fails to make the cut, it will be seen as something as a fall from grace for the woman who was ranked No 10 just nine months ago and won the US Open in 2021. And it will be even more difficult for Raducanu to rack up the points as she was one of the seeds this time a year ago, meaning she got a bye directly into the second round which guaranteed her at least 10 ranking points – the scenario from last year’s Miami Open.
But this time around, she will need to win three matches in Indian Wells and one in Miami to equal the points she earned last year just from having one victory across both tournaments. Further down the line, Raducanu has the most points to defend on the clay with 100 from last year’s Stuttgart quarter-final showing and 120 from making the last 16 in Madrid.
While her opponents for those tournaments remain unknown, the world No 77 has already been drawn to face world No 62 Kovinic in the opening round of Indian Wells. Although Raducanu previously lost to the 28-year-old at last year’s Australian Open, she was struggling with severe blistering at the time and later revealed that members of her team thought she should have pulled out instead of competing, and she still managed to force a third and final set against the Montenegrin so there are promising signs that she is capable of beating Kovinic in the opening round.
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The 2021 US Open champion would then face 20th seed Magda Linette in the second round, with the Pole receiving a bye. While Linette is a step up as the current world No 21, Raducanu managed to get an easy 6-2 6-2 win over her at last year’s Korea Open. And if she can beat Kovinic and Linette back-to-back, she will successfully defend her 65 points from last year.
Looking even further ahead, either Beatriz Haddad Maia, Katerina Siniakova or Jule Niemeier would be a third-round opponent for Raducanu, and winning that match would earn her 120 of the 294 points she will hope to defend before the Wimbledon entry deadline.
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