Emma Raducanu could face the two-time grand slam winner and her idol Simona Halep at the BNP Paribas Open in the Briton’s first tournament since winning the US Open.
Teenager Raducanu, whose stunning triumph last month propelled her from 150th to 22nd in the world rankings, received a wild card entry into the tournament, which is regularly regarded as the unofficial ‘fifth Grand Slam’.
As Raducanu is ranked inside the top 32 players competing, she has received a bye to the second round of the WTA 1000 event in Indian Wells, where she has been drawn to play the winner of the match between world No 71 Maria Camila Osorio Serrano and Aliaksandra Sasnovich, the Belrusian world No 100, in a match likely to be on Thursday or Friday this week.
Victory in her first competitive match since her New York triumph will set up an encounter against current world No 17 Halep in the third round if the Romanian defeats the victor of Zhang Shuai versus Marta Kostyuk.
Raducanu, whose father Ian is from Romania and who is due to play there at the Transylvania Open later this month, has previously spoken of taking inspiration from Halep, who won Indian Wells back in 2015 and has two Grand Slam titles to her name at the 2018 French Open and Wimbledon the following year.
Should Raducanu navigate her way through to the third round of the BNP Paribas Open, she could also face the daunting prospect of facing five consecutive matches against former Grand Slam winners.
She has been put on the same half of the draw as the current World No 11 Petra Kvitova, who could await Raducanu in the fourth round. Based on the top seeds a potential quarter-final against World No 7 Elina Svitolina could follow, with a last-four clash against Iga Swiatek, the second seed at Indian Wells, lined up if all goes according to the rankings.
Should Raducanu reach a second consecutive final, she could find herself up against either world No 3 Karolina Pliskova or the current sixth-ranked player Garbina Muguruza on a run of matches that would certainly represent a significant step up in calibre of opponent given she is yet to face a top 10 player since her Wimbledon breakthrough earlier this year. In fact, Raducanu will be hoping to claim a first WTA event win this week, having lost her two previous efforts.
The 18-year-old became the first qualifier in the Open era to win a major tournament at Flushing Meadows in New York, where she did not lose a set.
She only made her WTA Tour debut in June this year at the Nottingham Open and went on to reach the last 16 at Wimbledon in her second tour-level event.
Indian Wells will be just the fifth tour-level event of Raducanu’s career.
The prestigious event has returned to the WTA calendar after a two-year hiatus, while two-time champion and former world number one Kim Clijsters has also received a wild card to the main draw.
Current world number one Ashleigh Barty has chosen not to compete at Indian Wells and Naomi Osaka has also pulled out.
British number five Katie Boulter failed in her bid to reach the main draw as she was beaten 7-5 6-2 by 16-year-old American Reese Brantmeier in the first round of qualifying.
Raducanu’s autumn schedule finalised
Emma Raducanu appears to have finalised her schedule for the rest of the year as she prepares for her first match since her stunning US Open win.
It promises to be a busy autumn for Raducanu starting in Indian Wells and she discovered her path following Monday night’s draw.
The tournament is held over two weeks, with main draw matches beginning on Wednesday. Now ranked 22, Raducanu will be among the 32 seeds and therefore receive a bye in the first round. Her first match will be on either Friday or Saturday.
The joint tournament on the WTA and ATP Tour is one of the biggest and most prestigious stops on the calendar outside the grand slams. Usually held in March, it was cancelled in 2019 and then postponed earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Raducanu is currently without a full-time coach. Her short-term deal with Andrew Richardson ended after the US Open and, despite the incredible success she enjoyed in New York, the teenager opted to look elsewhere, targeting someone with WTA experience.
She does not expect to make an appointment until the end of the season and has been seen working in Indian Wells with former British number one Jeremy Bates, who coaches Katie Boulter and is also the Lawn Tennis Association’s national women’s coach.
A strong showing in Indian Wells would make Raducanu a serious contender to qualify for the WTA Finals. Reaching the Finals could mean Raducanu features in six events before the end of the year, culminating in the Champions Tennis on home soil at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Following Raducanu’s success, the UK Government announced a £30 million pledge to revive thousands of public tennis courts across the country.
They publicly pledged a £21.9m commitment to seize on this moment, with the Lawn Tennis Association making its own £8.4m contribution, in plans to refurbish more than 4,500 courts at more than 1,500 venues.
Emma Raducanu’s schedule for rest of 2021
7-17 Oct – Indian Wells
The year’s biggest remaining tournament before next month’s WTA Finals. Raducanu was last week handed a wildcard to avoid qualifying in her first outing since Flushing Meadows – the cut-off for her to do so based on her ranking came before her fairy-tale of New York triumph.
18-24 Oct – Kremlin Cup
The first event Raducanu entered following her maiden grand slam win but she may end up dropping out if she repeats her Flushing Meadows heroics in Indian Wells given the tournament in Moscow begins just a day later.
25-31 Oct – Transylvania Open
A tournament in her father’s native Romania would be a special one for Raducanu, who could expect a hero’s welcome. Playing here could also witness an emotional reunion with her grandmother, who last month revealed she had not been to visit for two years due to the coronavirus crisis.
6-12 Nov – Linz
It was confirmed yesterday that Raducanu had entered what could be her final tournament of the year. However, she could yet withdraw if she reaches the WTA Finals given the two events overlap.
10-17 Nov – WTA Finals
Raducanu will need to finish in the top eight of the ‘Porsche Race Singles’ to qualify – she is currently 15th. The Finals were last month moved from Shenzhen, China, to Guadalajara, Mexico, denying her a potential reunion with her other grandmother.
25-28 Nov – Champions Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall
The first chance to see Raducanu play on home soil since the US Open. She agreed to take part in the annual legends’ event before embarking upon her historic run in what turned out to be an inspired piece of business by organisers.