Published On: Mon, Mar 18th, 2024

Emma Raducanu learns Miami Open fate as Halep faces tough test in return from drugs ban | Tennis | Sport

Even though the top 32 players receive a bye in Miami, there is no shortage of stars competing in the tournament’s opening rounds. Several Grand Slam champions are unseeded, including Raducanu, Halep, Naomi Osaka and Caroline Wozniacki.

Raducanu received a wildcard into the tournament as she continues her comeback from triple surgery. The Miami Open was one of her last tournaments in 2023 before shutting down her season to go under the knife. The 21-year-old will now face Wang Xiyu in the first round on either Tuesday or Wednesday.

The 2021 US Open champion has never faced the world No. 52. Wang had a strong start to the year when she reached the semi-final in Auckland but she struggled to put together wins in Australia and the Middle East before turning things around in Austin, where she lost in the final of the WTA 250 event.

Meanwhile, Raducanu is 5-5 in matches for this season. Indian Wells marked the first tournament where she managed to earn back-to-back wins in 2024. She eased past Rebeka Masarova in the first round and led Dayana Yastremska 4-0 in the second before the Ukrainian retired.

The Brit lost to No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka but managed to put up a good fight, pushing the Australian Open champion in the second set before going out 6-3 7-5. Elsewhere in the draw, all eyes will be on Halep as she competes in her first tournament since August 2022.

The former world No. 1 was provisionally suspended from tennis in October 2022 after she tested positive for the banned substance roxadustat during the US Open that year. She then received a second, separate charge relating to abnormalities in her Athlete Biological Passport. An independent tribunal upheld both charges last summer, banning her for four years.

But she appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport last month. The CAS panel threw out the ABP charge and accepted Halep’s argument that the roxadustat came from a contaminated supplement, reducing her ban to nine months. Just days after the decision was announced, the Miami Open awarded the Romanian a wildcard.

But she will be thrown in the deep end for her return. Halep faces former world No. 2 Paula Badosa in the first round, and the winner will take on second seed Sabalenka. Badosa has been struggling with a back injury over the last year which has seen her pull out of multiple tournaments.

It remains to be seen whether she will be ready to take on Halep but if the 2021 Indian Wells winner is fit, she will be dangerous. Fellow former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki will take on Clara Burel in the first round while Naomi Osaka faces Elisabetta Cocciaretto. 43-year-old Venus Williams has drawn Diana Shnaider.

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