Indian Wells 2021 - Sloane Stephens fights back to beat Britain's Heather Watson in California
Sloane Stephens beat Heather Watson for only the third time in her career at the eighth opportunity to progress through to the second round of Indian Wells. Stephens fought back from a set and a break down to ease past the British player, who falls to a record of 11 wins and 20 losses in singles competitions this season.
Sloane Stephens of the United States celebrates a point against Heather Watson of Great Britain during their first round match on Day 3 of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 06, 2021 in Indian Wells, California.
Both players traded breaks during an even first set with Stephens struggling to impose her aggressive game and a tie-break followed, with Watson narrowly securing the opening set 7-6 (5).
Stephens appeared to be in trouble when she dropped the opening game of the second set to love after three consecutive unforced errors were followed by a lovely cross-court backhand from Watson.
Yet Stephens broke back in a marathon second game that lasted 18 points, with the British player appearing to struggle physically in the California heat.
However, Watson dug deep and fought hard to cling on, even as Stephens began to find her attacking range, thrice holding serve well in hard-fought games. But the momentum had swung and Stephens claimed a decisive break in the 12th game to send the match to a decider.
The American had found her range as the match entered the third set, racing into a three-game advantage on the back of some fine hitting. And while Watson offered resistance in the fourth game - which ran to 20 points - Stephens secured the double break to put her on the cusp of the second round. She would eventually serve it out in the seventh game of the stanza.
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