Sloane Stephens outlasts Watson in three sets in Indian Wells opener

Sloane Stephens beat Heather Watson 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-1 on Wednesday in her opening match at the BNP Paribas Open.

Sloane Stephens returns during her first-round match at the BNP Paribas Open, on Wednesday. - AP

Sloane Stephens outlasted Heather Watson 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-1 on Wednesday in her opening match at the BNP Paribas Open.

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

Stephens advanced to a second-round match against fellow American Jessica Pegula.

American Shelby Rogers beat Ukraine's Anhelina Kalinina 7-6 (2), 6-2, in a night match. Her compatriot Madison Keys beat Kaia Kanepi, 6-0, 7-5.

However, American Madison Brengle lost to Hsieh Su-wei, 6-1, 7-6 (4), and US qualifier Alycia Parks was routed 6-0, 6-1 by Arantxa Rus.

Men's main draw play begins on Thursday.

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

Electronic Hawkeye cameras, previously in use at the tournament, will handle line calls for every match. Chair umpires and ball kids will be on hand.

The combined ATP and WTA tournament is missing some of the sport's biggest names, including men's No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Barty. Also out on men's side are Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

The women's draw is missing Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams.

Second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka said she tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in the desert and is in isolation.

The tournament was moved from its usual March date because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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