Sasnovich sets up Indian Wells clash with Raducanu

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·2-min read
Britain's Emma Raducanu will face Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus in her opening match at the Indian Wells WTA and ATP Masters hardcourt tournament (AFP/CLIVE BRUNSKILL)
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Aliaksandra Sasnovich booked a clash with the WTA's hottest star Wednesday, downing Maria Camila Osorio in straight sets to reach a second-round meeting with Emma Raducanu at Indian Wells.

Sasnovich, a 27-year-old from Belarus ranked 100th in the world, saved nine of the 10 break points she faced to emerge with the 6-0, 6-4 first-round victory and advance to a meeting with Raducanu, the British 18-year-old whose run to the US Open title last month electrified the tennis world.

Raducanu, who became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title, arrived at Indian Wells without a coach, having parted company with Andrew Richardson after her victory at Flushing Meadows.

As she continues her search for a permanent coach, former pro Jeremy Bates is helping her out at Indian Wells, where Raducanu said she "can't wait to get started" on her campaign.

Britain's Andy Murray said it appeared Raducanu had plenty of savvy -- on and off the court -- to maintain her steep trajectory.

"Often what separates the elite athletes from maybe that level just below is that ability to learn quickly and process information quickly," Murray said when quizzed about his young compatriot on Wednesday. "Not everyone can do that.

"I've not spent loads of time on a tennis court with her. But often elite athletes have that quality and I wouldn't be surprised if she has that.

"She's obviously a very smart player and quick learner," Murray said.

Murray, a former world number one still battling back from a hip injury, is part of an ATP Indian Wells Masters field that will see a new champion crowned.

A wrist injury has sidelined defending champion Dominic Thiem, while the four men who prevailed before him -- Juan Martin del Potro, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal -- are all absent.

Men's play begins on Thursday.

In other first-round WTA action on Wednesday, former US Open champion Sloane Stephens rallied from a set and a break down to beat Heather Watson 6-7 (5/7), 7-5, 6-1.

From 5-5 in the second set, Stephens won seven games in a row for just her third win over Britain's Watson in eight career meetings.

"She's always a super-tough opponent and I always look forward to playing her," Stephens said. "I just competed really well. After the first set, that was disappointing to lose that one, but I felt like it was a battle and I was still in the match."

France's Alize Cornet defeated Romanian qualifier Gabriela Ruse 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) to set up a second-round match with Leylah Fernandez, the 19-year-old Canadian who made her own scintillating run to the US Open final last month only to finish runner-up to Raducanu.

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