INDIAN WELLS, Calif.—Moments before reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu walked on to Stadium One at the BNP Paribas Open to play 66th-ranked Caroline Garcia, the in-house music system played the song “California Dreamin’”, the hit from the ‘60s that speaks of youthful hopes “on such a winter’s day.” These were fitting lyrics for the 19-year-old Raducanu, who as winter nears its end, has been hoping to put several months of clouds behind her.

On a tennis-perfect sunny day in the California desert, Raducanu took one small step forward. In 91 minutes, Raducanu scraped and scratched her way past Garcia by the rare yet revealing score, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. It was Raducanu’s first match win at this event and only her second of 2022.

“The match today, I’m not going to lie,” said Raducanu. “I was a bit nervous going out before because I hadn't played many. I know that before I went out in my last match in Mexico, I was pretty nervous. Today I just really wanted to play free and swing.”

Since losing her opening match here last fall, Raducanu has faced a wave of physical challenges, including a bout with COVID, blisters and a leg injury. “It's tough when you have no momentum,” she said. “It's so stop-start. Yeah, I'm really glad that I managed to push through today, kind of build and see where I can go from here.”


As any of us seek to make our way, we look for telling signs. Usually, they come gradually, subtle signals that over time reveal meaningful answers. But over the last nine months, it’s been the opposite for Raducanu, an unprecedented rapid-fire sequence of seasons. Recall that as recently as June 2021, prior to Wimbledon, she was ranked 338 in the world. Summer ended with Raducanu emerging from the qualifying at the US Open to take the title. Autumn commenced a period of unimaginable adjustment as Raducanu became a British cultural icon, built a massive endorsement portfolio and grappled with the week-to-week rigors of the pro tour.

Even as Raducanu walked on to the court today, notable signs were present. Her tennis hero, Andy Murray, had just earned the 700th match win of his career on the Stadium Court. Prior to exiting the court, Murray gave Raducanu a good luck fist bump. Meanwhile, alongside the court, former pro Daniela Hantuchova was broadcasting the action for British TV. Twenty years ago on this same court, Hantuchova had been the teen sensation, taking down Martina Hingis to win the first of two titles here. And then there was Garcia, once touted by Murray as a future world number one.

Per the score, it was a strangely bookended match. As expected, Raducanu is raw, subject to patches of passivity that leave her vulnerable. But Garcia was not skilled enough to take advantage of those moments, her second set victory providing little bounce into the third.

“It was definitely a tough match to win,” said Raducanu. “Caroline is a really tricky opponent because she is really aggressive and plays very quickly. As soon as I dropped my ball speed and pace, she took advantage of that in the second set. I'm just glad that I managed to adjust for the third.”

For all the public attention Raducanu has generated, she takes stock of things quite clearly. “I think everyone just suddenly expected me to win everything, and clean up everything I played,” she said. “But realistically before that, like, if you would have said to me last year, Emma, what is your goal for the year? I'd be like, Okay, I want to win one round in the main draw of a Grand Slam. I did that in Australia. That to me last year probably would have made my year, to be honest.”

As another British notable, novelist Jane Austen, wrote in one of her books, “You must be the best judge of your own happiness.” The book title: Emma.

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