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Injury interrupts start of Rome rivalry between Bianca Andreescu and Emma Raducanu
The two US Open champions born of Romanian immigrants played their first match at the Foro Italico only for Raducanu's body to betray her early in the second set.
Published May 10, 2022
WATCH: Pandemic and injuries have kept Andreescu off tour since winning her maiden major title—is the Canadian at last ready for a comeback?
In any other era, a player ranked 90 completely dominating the reigning US Open champion would be viewed as highly aberrational. But these are pandemic times, an unprecedented moment for the entire planet that has also profoundly cast its shadow over the world of professional tennis. Everything from rankings to schedules to draws to mental health to physical fitness to performance has become massively deregulated.
So it was that 90th-ranked Bianca Andreescu’s 6-2, 2-1 retirement victory over 2021 US Open winner Emma Raducanu can hardly be considered an upset. It hardly mattered that this was only Andreescu’s third tournament and sixth match of the year. What mattered was that Andreescu had put on a first-rate display of the mix of movement, power, precision and versatility that had taken her to the 2019 US Open title.
“I came into the match with a very positive mindset,” said Andreescu. “I knew it was not going to be an easy match. Whatever she was going through, I obviously hope her a speedy recovery, but I was just very happy with how consistent I was with my performance.”
From the beginning, it was all uphill for Raducanu. Serving the opening game, she went down 15-40 and took eight minutes to eventually hold. Two games later, Raducanu faced a love-40 deficit, fought back to deuce, faced another break point—and double-faulted.
While Raducanu struggled to merely find her primary colors, Andreescu painted a tapestry, a reminder of what made her 2019 ascent so pleasing. “She likes to take control right from the start,” said Andreescu. “My game plan was to take control before she did.”
I'm putting in a lot of hours on the practice court. But it's like I'm not sure whether the quality or the ball I'm receiving in practice, I mean, it's not the same when I'm playing these matches because I definitely feel like the matches are taking a lot more out of me than they probably should. Emma Raducanu
Showing off impressive footwork and concentration, Andreescu’s attention to court management was exemplary. When pressed into defensive positions, she’d shape balls with ample topspin and generate depth. When opportunity presented itself, Andreescu was appropriately aggressive, her crisp footwork putting her in place to strike winners off both sides. With Raducanu serving at 1-3, 0-15, Andreescu drove a backhand return down the line, followed it up to the net and deftly clipped a backhand volley winner. Through the first seven games, as Andreescu took a double-break lead of 5-2, there was little Raducanu could do other than react, her tactical array largely limited to flat drives.
Following that seventh game, Raducanu requested the trainer come to the court and treat her back. The two shortly left the court. With Raducanu gone, Andreescu practiced serves. Upon resumption, Andreescu held at love. Three games into the second set, following a four-deuce game on her serve, Raducanu told the chair umpire “I can’t move” and retired from the match.
“It's weird, because when I'm playing in practice, I can practice for a good few hours a day,” said Raducanu. “I'm putting in a lot of hours on the practice court. But it's like I'm not sure whether the quality or the ball I'm receiving in practice, I mean, it's not the same when I'm playing these matches because I definitely feel like the matches are taking a lot more out of me than they probably should.”
It was a shame it ended this way. In theory, Andreescu-Raducanu could be a great rivalry. But in practice, at least today, Andreescu revealed far more assets—variety, movement, fitness—than an opponent for whom injuries have become disturbingly frequent. Said Raducanu, “But, I mean, for sure I need to make sure my back is fully right, however long that takes. I need to just keep on it. I don't want to play my next match with a feeling of limitation because I think that I learnt my lesson from this week, when to push, when not to push. Probably today wasn't right.”
Raducanu’s father has spoken about bringing in various experts to address different aspects of her game. Perhaps, amid all these woes, Team Raducanu might lift a page from the classic Australian text: If you’re hurt, don’t play. But if you play, you’re not hurt.
Andreescu took off much of the last few months of 2021 and the early part of this year—time off that she believes has greatly helped renew her enthusiasm. “That break, I did a bunch of stuff,” Andreescu said. “I did other things outside of the sport. I did martial arts. I did hip-hop. I did Yoga, meditation. These are things I always wanted to do so I was so happy I was able to do that. Spend time with my family. Just like go deep into my brain to figure out what's going on. Just having that break, as well, made me appreciate the game even more and made me really realize that I'm very passionate and I want to continue to play.”