Emma Raducanu’s bad luck, it seems, continues as she pulled out of her 2nd-round match at the ASB Classic in Auckland with an ankle injury that left the British No 1 in tears with the score standing at 0-6 7-5 Retired.
It was not great. Definitely tough. I’ve played a lot of matches in my life and I’ve played through some intense delays, but it was definitely like two separate matches. Outside, it was really tough. It was rainy, windy. It was tennis but it was more about surviving instead of playing great. Indoors, it was completely different, but I got to hit a lot of balls so that’s important. Venus Williams
Once again, matches were forced indoors due to persistent rain, and Raducanu raced through first set in just 22 minutes, scoring a tidy bagel, but the second proved more competitive as her opponent, Viktoria Kuzmova, a qualifier from Slovakia ranked 134, hung tight with the former World No 10 in their first meeting.
Kuzmova served for the set at 5-4, but double-faulted that chance away to drop her serve to love, and when Raducanu dropped her serve again in the next game, slipping on the indoor court during the first point, the Slovak fired 2 consecutive aces to wrap up the set in the following game.
The Briton turned her left ankle and called for the trainer, who strapped it, but when the 20-year-old returned to court, she withdrew from the match in tears after playing just one more point.
During her first full season on the WTA Tour last year, Raducanu had to contend with a variety of injuries and it was eventually brought to a premature end by a right wrist issue.
She has been working with strength and conditioning coach Jez Green, who is credited with helping Andy Murray overcoming his own early-career injury problems, but this freak injury now casts a doubt over her fitness in time for the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, which gets under way in Melbourne on 16 January.
Raducanu had enjoyed a promising start at her first tournament of the year in Auckland, recovering from losing the first set to defeat young Czech talent Linda Fruhvirtova to win her 1st-round match.
Kuzmova turned things around after having struggled to make any inroads in the first set, in which she did not winning a single point on her second serve.
Raducanu looked to be well on track to make a 6th career quarter-final appearance, but a transformed Kuzmova came out in the second and, although Raducanu had several chances to break, she was thwarted in 3 consecutive service games, while the Slovak grabbed her chance when it was offered to move into a 3-2 lead.
The former US Open champion finally got the break to level at 5-5, a limp double-fault from Kuzmova helping her on her way, but it was then that Raducanu took the tumble in the opening point of the next service game, and she fell 0-40 behind, and although she saved 2 break points, she could not defend the third.
Kuzmova, an Auckland semi-finalist in 2019, will face 7th-seeded Danka Kovinic in the quarter-finals on Friday after the Montenegrin saw off America’s Lauren Davis, 4-6 6-3 6-2.
Top seed Coco Gauff had an easier time of it, beating fellow American Sofia Kenin to make the quarter-finals, where she will face Zhu Lin, who came back from 5-3 down in the final set to topple Venus Williams.
Gauff took out the 2020 Australian Open champion, 6-4 6-4, on Thursday after lengthy rain delays eventually forced the entirety of this match indoors, and it was the World No 7 who prevailed in 1 hour and 23 minutes.
Kenin is a former World No 4 and she had beaten Gauff in their only prior encounter en route to her Australian Open title 3 years ago, but Gauff exacted her revenge, firing 9 aces and saving 6 of the 7 break points she faced while scoring 8 more winners and 14 fewer unforced errors than her opponent in the contest.
Gauff built a 4-1 lead in the opening set, but the 2022 Roland Garros finalist failed to serve it out at 5-3, allowing Kenin back on serve, but she quickly reclaimed her advantage, breaking her opponent for the one-set lead after a Kenin forehand flew long on set point.
There were no service breaks in the second until 5-4 and, when Kenin failed to convert 3 game points, Gauff earned a match point by forcing an error with her strong backhand, and she converted as Kenin’s forehand went long.
Gauff’s quarter-final opponent is Zhu Lin of China, who posted her second come-from-behind win of the week by ousting former World No 1 Venus Williams, 3-6 6-2 7-5.
Zhu, ranked 84, saved a match point in her 1st-round win over Madison Brengle, and she pulled off another come-back by charging back from 3-5 down in the final set against the 2015 ASB Classic champion.
Williams is a 7-time Grand Slam singles champion and she was down a break when a one-hour rain delay came at 2-1 in the opening set but, after the players returned to Stadium Court, the American swept through 5 of the next 6 games to take the one-set lead.
In the second, Zhu battled to a 4-2 lead before the rain returned and the match resumed two-and-a-half hours later indoors, where the Chinese quickly tied the match at a set apiece.
42-year old Williams fired a rally cross-court forehand winner to go up a break at 3-2 in the decider, edging closer to her first tour-level quarter-final since 2019, but she blew her 5-3 lead in a match that stretched over nearly 7 hours because of the rain.
She was broken when serving for the match at 5-4 and, at 5-5, Zhu deployed a couple of winning drop-shots to save break points, and then held for 6-5, which proved decisive as she broke Williams for the 8th time to capture victory, reeling off the last 4 games of the match in the process.
Starting her 30th year on tour, Williams left the court after her 6th appearance in Auckland to no applause but also to no suggestion her career is nearer to an end.
“It was not great,” Williams said. “Definitely tough. I’ve played a lot of matches in my life and I’ve played through some intense delays, but it was definitely like two separate matches.
“Outside, it was really tough. It was rainy, windy. It was tennis but it was more about surviving instead of playing great.
“Indoors, it was completely different, but I got to hit a lot of balls so that’s important.”
Qualifiers are doing well in Auckland, as Spain’s young Rebeka Masarova continued her run with a 6-1 6-4 win over Russian Anna Blinkova, while Belgian qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure upset Canada’s Rebecca Marino, the 8th seed, 3-6 6-3 6-3.
The latter stopped a possible all-Canadian encounter, and she will face Leylah Fernandez, the 3rd seed, who swept past Austria’s Julia Grabher, 6-0 6-1.
Czech Karolina Muchova ended Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse’s run, 6-4 6-1, and will meet Masarova in the Last 8.
The 2023 ASB Classic in Auckland is facing a potential disaster as the bad weather continues to plague the tournament.
With only two indoor courts available, Tournament Director Nicolas Lamperin has had to make the tough decision to move all the remaining matches indoors on Thursday to mixed reactions from both players and fans alike.