Stephens outlives Watson in straight sets in Indian Wells opener

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) – Sloane Stephens outlasted Heather Watson 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-1 on Wednesday in their opener at the BNP Paribas Open.

Stephens won 7 of 18 break points. She took a 5-0 lead in the third set before Watson held on, then served the win. Watson had seven aces and seven double faults on the hard courts at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Stephens qualified for a second round match against fellow American Jessica Pegula.

American Shelby Rogers, who beat first Ash Barty in the third round of the US Open, was due to face Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina in a night match. Americans Madison Brengle, Madison Keys and qualifier Alycia Parks also played later.

The men’s main draw begins on Thursday.

Three-time major champion Andy Murray and four-time major champion Kim Clijsters received wild cards for the event. US Open champion Emma Raducanu and runner-up Leylah Fernandez are listed.

Hawkeye electronic cameras, previously used during the tournament, will handle the online calls for each match. Chair umpires and ball collectors will be on site.

The combined ATP and WTA tournament misses some of the biggest names in the sport, including men’s No.1 Novak Djokovic and Barty. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are also present in the men. The women’s draw is missing Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams. Aryna Sabalenka, second in the standings, said she tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in the desert and was in isolation.

The tournament has been moved from its usual March date due to the coronavirus pandemic.


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