A wrist injury that hampered the British star last year has become a problem again, providing yet another issue to overcome after a bout of tonsillitis forced her to recently pull out of the ATX Open in Texas. Raducanu practiced on Wednesday with strapping on both wrists.
But, in her first match since losing to Coco Gauff at the Australian Open almost two months ago, Raducanu defied any fitness concerns to beat Kovinic 6-2 6-3 and set up a second-round clash against 20th seed Magda Linette.
Kovinic knocked Raducanu out of the Australian Open last year in their only previous meeting, and made a strong start as she broke the British number one to take a swift 2-0 lead. But Raducanu responded superbly, reeling off six straight games to take the opening set and move halfway to victory in the California desert.
It was a familiar tale in the second set, as once again Kovinic secured an early break only for Raducanu to immediately get it back on serve and what was a 2-0 deficit quickly became a 4-2 lead.
Kovinic stopped the rot but, as she served to stay in the match, Raducanu brought up three match points and needed just one to seal a win that will give her huge satisfaction.
It continued a strong day for the British contingent, after Jack Draper needed only 55 minutes to get the better of Switzerland’s Leandro Riedi.
This was also his first return to competitive action since the Australian Open, when he was beaten in the first round by Rafael Nadal, though there were no signs of any rust in the 6-1 6-1 victory.
Draper will now face compatriot Dan Evans in the second round, after the 24th seed received a first-round bye.