Emma Raducanu branded ‘favourite’ by Simona Halep ahead of potential Indian Wells clash

US Open champion Emma Raducanu ready to return to action at Indian Wells

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Emma Raducanu will be the “favourite” if she is able to set up a third-round clash with her idol Simona Halep. The former world No 1 admitted that the young Brit would be a “big challenge” for her if they faced off in the Indian Wells third round. Raducanu is set to play her first match since her historic US Open triumph against Aliaksandra Sasnovich in Indian Wells, and a win would secure her a blockbuster meeting with two-time Major champion Halep.

Raducanu is playing for the first time since achieving the seemingly-impossible at the US Open.

The 18-year-old became the first qualifier in history to win a Grand Slam title, and the first woman to win on just her second appearance at Major level.

She has since shot up the rankings from No 150 in the world to No 21, and is making her long-awaited return to the match court against Sasnovich in the second round of Indian Wells, having benefited from a bye as one of the top seeds.

There is even more of an incentive for the Bromley local to win her first match back, as her proclaimed tennis “idol” Halep awaits in the third round.

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The 30-year-old is playing in just her fourth tournament since picking up an injury during the Italian Open back in May, which left her side-lined for three months and unable to defend her Wimbledon title.

Though it is the former world No 1 who has always been Raducanu’s hero, Halep herself is relishing the opportunity to face the young Brit, but played down her own chances against the US Open champion.

“Of course it’s going to be a big challenge [if we play] because she has a lot of confidence, she’s kind of [the] favourite for the next match if we play,” Halep admitted.

“I stayed so much this year with injuries so I’m just trying to come back as much as possible and as good as possible.”

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The 2015 Indian Wells champion was also excited to face Raducanu in the first tournament since her US Open success, adding: “I’m happy that I will have the chance to play with US Open champion so fast, the next tournament after that Grand Slam.

“Yeah, I just want to be ready and honestly I will focus on myself like I do every match.”

The world No 17 also revealed she sent well wishes to the 18-year-old following her title win in Flushing Meadows, as Raducanu’s father hails from Halep’s home country of Romania.

“We didn’t talk much but I just congratulated her for what she has done, it’s amazing.

“The performance is huge and I’m really happy for her. She’s so young and it’s extraordinary what she has achieved already.”

Meanwhile, Raducanu admitted she didn’t want to look past her first match against world No 100 Sasnovich but was eager for an opportunity to face her role model.

“Yeah, it’s a round ahead so I don’t want to get ahead of myself at all,” she told members of the press when arriving in Indian Wells.

“Like every single player in this draw is high quality. Anything can happen. Obviously Simona is my idol and if it were to happen I would be really excited and up for it because it’s just an amazing opportunity and experience.”
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