Betting preview: Can Emma Raducanu shine again as she returns at Indian Wells?

The new darling of British sport makes her return to the tennis court at Indian Wells, and all eyes will be on her to see if she can back up that US Open triumph.

Emma Raducanu makes her return to the WTA Tour this at Indian Wells, and all eyes will be on the 18-year-old after her US Open triumph.

The British ace made history in New York, becoming the first ever qualifier to win a major.

She has not played since, largely due to a spate of publicity appearances that have included television interviews, the New York Met Gala and the premiere of the latest James Bond movie.

However, it's time for Raducanu to get back to what she does best, and she has picked a fine stage upon which to do it.

What is Indian Wells?

When: October 6-17

Where: California, US

Draw size: 96 players

Prize money pot: $8,761,725

In short, Indian Wells is the second biggest event in the American tennis calendar. It is one of only four Premier Mandatory events on the WTA Tour along with Madrid, Miami and Beijing.

It is part of the prestigious 'Sunshine Double' with Miami, with both events usually taking place in March. However, Indian Wells was cancelled altogether in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and postponed until October this year.

The reason Indian Wells is such a coveted title is due to its sheer size. It is the best-attended tennis tournament outside of the majors, and boasts the second-biggest permanent tennis stadium in the world behind Arthur Ashe stadium at Flushing Meadows - the scene of Raducanu's US Open triumph.

For that reason, Indian Wells is often referred to as the 'fifth Grand Slam'.

Can Emma Raducanu win Indian Wells?

If you can win a major in tennis, you can win anything, so absolutely Emma Raducanu can win Indian Wells.

The tournament has suffered a plethora of high-profile withdrawals too, with world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Aryna Sabalenka and Sofia Kenin among the big names who won't be there.

It is also going to be similar conditions to those in which Raducanu thrived in New York. Indian Wells is played on an outdoor hardcourt in hot conditions, so it should suit her game from the back of the court.

Don't expect her age to be a barrier either. Indeed, the reigning champion from 2019 was another teenager in Bianca Andreescu.

However, the WTA is such a tough Tour to predict as the pool of talent is so large and the margins are so small. Over three sets, just about anyone can beat anyone else.

Who will be Raducanu's biggest rivals at Indian Wells?

That's a very tough one to predict, as the US Open itself proved.

There are, though, several former champions in the main draw who will fancy their chances of repeating their previous success.

Bianca Andreescu won it last time the tournament was held in 2019, and she has the talent to beat anyone on the WTA Tour.

That said, Andreescu's own world is very different to what it was two years ago. She has played very little tennis and battled a persistent knee injury, so whether she is physically ready to win a tournament right now is highly debatable.

The same can be said of Simona Halep, who is a potential third round opponent for Raducanu. The former world No. 1 won the title in 2015 and remains prominent in the WTA rankings. She is also a double major-winner and has a game very well-suited for the conditions in California.

She has missed a lot of tennis lately with a calf injury though and has also just split from her coach, so she may not be in the best place to mount a challenge either.

Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka, who is also in Raducanu's section of the draw, is another who could challenge here.

Does Emma Raducanu need to win Indian Wells?

At this point there is little doubt that Raducanu is destined for the top in tennis, but the real question here is how quickly she wants to get there.

Raducanu had a huge injection of rankings points from winning the US Open, and that pushed her more than 125 places up the rankings to 22nd in the world.

That has also put her in contention to qualify for the end-of-season WTA Finals in Guadalajara. The top eight players from the year qualify, and she is currently in 14th - 400 points behind.

With Indian Wells so prominent on the calendar, the rankings points rewards are great, and she will get 390 should she reach the semi-finals.

It won't be easy for Raducanu to make Guadalajara, but it's certainly a realistic target and a good run at Indian Wells will bring it tantalisingly within her grasp. Winning it would almost guarantee qualification.