British No 1 Emma Raducanu retired at 6-2, 2-1 down against Bianca Andreescu in Rome on Tuesday, citing back trouble and telling the chair umpire that she could not move.
It's not easy being on tour. From January to end of October, that's a long time. You really have to schedule your training properly, your competition, all of that. You also have to know that injuries are a part of the game. But the best thing you can do is try to prevent. I think that's kind of the advice I can give her. Bianca Andreescu
It is another disappointing outcome for the 19-year old, who was hoping for a good run at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia this week.
Raducanu held serve in a marathon opening game in the face of 3 break points, before Andreescu ran off 5 of the next 6 games behind two breaks of serve.
On the ensuing 5-2 changeover, Raducanu left the court for a medical timeout, and she completed just 4 more games before shaking hands after dropping serve for a 3rd time to trail 2-1 in the second.
Later, the Brit told reporters that the back issue is one she has been dealing with since her 3rd-round exit in Madrid.
“Definitely disappointed with how today went,” Raducanu said. “But I guess I wanted to give it a try. I never really knew how bad it was until I kind of went out there.
“I’m still learning when it’s right to push my body and push through it, and when it’s not. I guess that’s something I’m learning at these tournaments.
“I thought that, maybe, taking one, two days off, it would just go away because a lot of the other small niggles I’ve had, they’ve kind of gone away after taking, like, two days off,” Raducanu added. “Then I got here and I was training, but it just didn’t seem to get better.
“I was training with some limitations. I wasn’t moving really, I was just playing where I knew where the ball was coming, just staying in one corner.
“I think I must have underestimated the unpredictability of competition in a match, you have to react.”
It was a highly anticipated 1st-round contest between the 2019 and 2021 US Open champions that saw the Canadian win 11 of 13 first-service points and push Raducanu to break point 11 times, although the Brit battled back to save 8 of them.
Raducanu’s retirement due to her lower back issues prompted a quick response from Andreescu who recently took a 6-month break to recover from injury and mental health concerns.
“I do wish her a speedy recovery and hope I can keep the same energy in the next rounds,” she said.
After winning her first WTA title at Indian Wells in 2019 at 19 years old, Andreescu was ruled out of most of the clay season and all of the grass season with a shoulder injury.
She returned and ultimately won Toronto and the US Open, but her season came to an end after tearing her meniscus at the WTA Finals, and she did not take the court again for 15 months.
“I think that you really have to experience it to really know what you need,” Andreescu told reporters. “But you’re playing the best players.
“You really have to have the right nutrition, the right game plan, like physically, mentally, emotionally, everything.
“It’s not easy being on tour. From January to end of October, that’s a long time. You really have to schedule your training properly, your competition, all of that.
“You also have to know that injuries are a part of the game. But the best thing you can do is try to prevent. I think that’s kind of the advice I can give her.”
When asked if this was her best performance of the season, the Canadian responded: “It’s definitely up there.
“Also my match with Danielle Collins in Madrid was very good. In my opinion, ‘very good’ for me is defined by consistency, effort, execution. So I hope I can continue to improve on that.”
Andreescu moves through to a 2nd-round meeting against Spanish lucky loser Nuria Parrizas Diaz, who advanced when her compatriot Sara Sorribes Tormo retired with a left upper back injury while leading 6-1, 4-3 in the match.
Parrizas Diaz earned a spot in the main draw after Naomi Osaka withdrew Monday with a left ankle injury.
Raducanu’s priority now is to prepare herself for her Roland Garros debut in two weeks after showing good progress in her first WTA clay season, posting a run to the Stuttgart quarter-finals and Round of 16 in Madrid.
“I think the last few weeks have been really positive,” Raducanu said. “I’ve learned a lot about myself and my game has definitely improved on this surface.
“But 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 learned my lesson from this week, when to push, and when not to push. Probably today wasn’t right.
“I feel like I’m the type of player that always wants to go. Maybe just like her. I would love to play every week.”
The 19-year old is clearly going through growing pains on tour, with full training sessions, playing back-to-back matches, and week after week taking its toll.
“It’s weird, because when I’m playing in practice, I can practice for a good few hours a day,” Raducanu said. “But the quality of the ball I’m receiving in practice, 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.
“I had a match in Stuttgart, my first round, it was, 6-1 6-2. The next day I felt like I was in bits,” she said, laughing.
Elsewhere, Madrid champion Ons Jabeur, the 9th seed, kept her momentum going by ousting Sorana Cirstea 6-0 7-6(1) after the Romanian stormed back from 2-5 down in the second set to push the Tunisian into a breaker.
Cirstea went 2 for 2 on break point opportunities and charged back from down 5-2 to move ahead 6-5, but Jabeur won her next service game to force the tiebreak and earned the first 3 points en route to victory, finishing with 20 of 26 on her first-service points, a cool 76.9 percent.
The win marked the 7th straight match for Jabeur, who entered Rome off her first WTA 1000 title last week.
13th-seeded Jessica Pegula, the Madrid finalist, also advanced after rallying from a set down to outlast Liudmila Samsonova, 4-6 6-3 6-4, while fellow American Amanda Anisimova also came through, defeating Czech qualifier Tereza Martincova, 6-2 0-6 6-4.
Other Americans, Sloane Stephens and Shelby Rogers, both lost, but 2 qualifiers made it through, with Lauren Davis upsetting Jelena Ostapenko, the 11th seed from Latvia, 6-2 6-3, who has now gone down her last 5 matches, while Madison Brengle beat Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk, 6-4 6-3.
Ekaterina Alexandrova knocked out Stephens, 6-1 6-2, in just 51 minutes, while Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania defeated Rogers, 3-6 6-1 6-4.
On Wednesday, Ruse will face the World No 1 Iga Swiatek, who returns after missing Madrid and opens her title defence, having won her last 23 matches.
“I just had like five or six days off without the racket, which was pretty nice,” said Swiatek of her break. “It’s pretty good to have opportunity to do something like that in between tournaments, in the middle of the season.
“I feel like I’m more fresh. For sure mentally and physically I had time to rest. Yeah, I came back to work after these five days. We went to Rafael Nadal Academy, so it was pretty cool.
“It’s pretty weird because I really rested, then they almost killed me on the practices so… Hopefully it’s going to give me more power and I’m going to be more ready to play well next tournaments.”
Tuesday’s other winners were Camila Osorio of Colombia, who got past Italian wild-card Lucia Bronzetti, 7-6(4) 6-3, while Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, was a 6-4 7-6(0) winner over qualifier Elina Avanesyan, and Swiss Jil Teichmann advanced after taking out home favourite Jasmine Paolini, 6-3 6-2.