INDIAN WELLS: Grand Slam champions Naomi Osaka, Emma Raducanu and Caroline Wozniacki reached the second round of Indian Wells on Thursday while former world number one Venus Williams was heading for victory before losing the last 10 games to Japan’s Nao Hibino.

Four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka, who returned to the tour in January after a maternity break, fell behind 2-1 in the first set to qualifier Sara Errani when she misfired on an overhead into the net in windy conditions.

But the Japanese player settled in from there, using her power to push the Italian around the court and won 10 of the final 11 games to advance 6-3 6-1.

“It was really tricky for me in the first set,” she told reporters. “I didn’t know if I should play with her and then go for my shots or if I should immediately go for my shots.

That took a little bit of working out, which is why the first set was closer than I would have wanted.“ Osaka, who received a wildcard to play at the event she won in 2018 for her first professional title, next faces 14th seed Liudmila Samsonova of Russia.

Former US Open champion Raducanu beat Spanish qualifier Rebeka Masarova 6-2 6-3 earlier in the day to set up a second-round clash with 30th seed Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine.

The British wildcard broke serve six times but also served eight double faults and needed four match points to close out the contest, which ended when Masarova’s backhand sailed long. Raducanu is playing in her fifth tournament since returning to action in January after being sidelined for eight months due to wrist and ankle surgeries.

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Wozniacki, 33, scored her first win in the California desert since 2019, beating Zhu Lin 7-6(6) 6-1 in a match that began on Wednesday before being halted due to rain.

The Dane returned to the tour last year after stepping away from the sport in 2020 to start a family.

The tournament’s 2011 champion and former world number one will next take on Croatian Donna Vekic, who is seeded 25th. Seven-time Grand Slam champion Williams looked poised for victory leading 6-2 3-2 before Hibino turned the tables for a 2-6 6-3 6-0 win.

The 43-year-old American had not played since suffering an early exit from last year’s US Open, where she fell to qualifier Greet Minnen in the first round.

Danielle Collins will face world number one Iga Swiatek in a blockbuster second-round clash after the American edged Russian qualifier Erika Andreeva 7-6(3) 7-6(6).

Collins rallied from 5-3 down in the first set and saved two set points in the second to beat Andreeva and set up a meeting with familiar foe Swiatek.

Collins, 30, announced in January that this would be her last season on the WTA Tour but said her trademark competitiveness is unchanged.

“I feel like it’s animal mode from the moment I walk in,” she said.


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