British No 1 Emma Raducanu raced into her first semi-final on the WTA Tour since winning the US Open in 2021, producing one of her finest performances of the year to upset 3rd-seeded Magda Linette in straight sets in the quarter-finals of the Korea Open in Seoul and will meet top seed Jelena Ostapenko in the Last 4.
My goal on the court is to keep trying to swing freer and freer in each match. And my other goal is to try and stay in Korea for as long as possible. Emma Raducanu
The 19-year-old has yet to drop a set this week, and was in imperious form against the 30-year old Pole, who is currently ranked 52 in the world but has been as high as 33 in her career.
Last year Raducanu became one of the biggest underdog stories in modern tennis when she became the first player to win a Grand Slam title as a qualifier.
Having only made her Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon that same year, a couple of months earlier, Raducanu stormed her way through the US Open draw without dropping a set to reach the final, which she also won in straight sets.
Despite rising to World No 10 in July, Raducanu has struggled to find her feet during her first full-time year on tour, and dropped down the rankings to No 77 after her early loss in New York.
“I’m happy with the way that I’m building my game back up and progressing,” Raducanu said after her win over Belgian Yanina Wickmayer on Wednesday. “And trying to set myself as best as possible up for next year, and also just to improve my game and go through the development phase that I kind of missed out on.
“I think I’m taking on the challenges pretty well and accepting them. It’s not going to be an easy road back but it’s no fun if it all comes to you too easy.”
Linette, who debuted in 2009, is also a strong doubles contender, having reached a career high of 26 in April this year, and making it through to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the French Open.
On Friday, Raducanu dominated their singles match with ruthless accuracy, winning through, 6-2 6-2, after an hour and 17 minutes on the Olympic Park Tennis Center show-court without the late wobbles she suffered with in earlier rounds.
She was the quicker out of the blocks, running out to a 4-0 lead before Linette held to love to get herself onto the scoreboard.
Despite finding her feet and growing in confidence on her serve towards the end of the set, Linette had no answer to the ferocity of Raducanu’s cross-court backhand, with a lengthy rally going the way of the Brit on set point.
After the one-sided first set, it looked as if Linette’s fortunes might have changed at the start of the second, when she won 2 fabulous all-court exchanges to hold triple break point for a 2-0 lead.
Raducanu, however, responded with 5 straight points, including 4 solid one-two punches, to wriggle out of trouble, and then pulled off a remarkable chipped return winner to break Linette in the next game.
Throughout the match, Raducanu struck her groundstrokes with authority and was imperious on serve, dropping just a single point behind her first delivery, which came in handy in avoiding that potential turning point in the 2nd game.
After winning the opening game of the second set, Linette appeared to struggle with thigh discomfort and called for a medical time-out after the 3rd, briefly leaving the court for treatment on her right thigh, while Raducanu kept herself warm.
Raducanu’s momentum remained unaffected by the pause in play, and Linette, her movement now visibly hampered, lost 14 of the next 17 points on resumption, simply unable to match the Brit’s persistent pace.
Demonstrating an array of shots with magnificent power and accuracy, Raducanu won the next 3 games to go 5-1 up.
Although Linette held with an ace to make Raducanu serve out the match, the 6th seed brought up 3 match points with another stunning cross-court backhand before sealing the comfortable win with her 3rd love hold of the day.
“My goal on the court is to keep trying to swing freer and freer in each match,” Raducanu had said earlier in the week. “And my other goal is to try and stay in Korea for as long as possible.”
So far she is well on track, and while her ranking may have dropped to 77, she has only a few points now to defend over the next 12 months, as she looks to climbing back towards the top of the game at a steadier pace.
For a place in the Korea Open final, 6th-seed Raducanu will meet a bigger challenge in Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, who, in the last quarter-final of the day, found her A-game to dispatch Andorra’s trailblazing teenager Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva, 6-2 6-1, in an hour and 14 minutes.
It was a considerably improved performance from the top-seeded Latvian, who had needed tight 3-setters to get past local wild-card Jeong Boyoung and 141th-ranked Anastasia Gasanova in her first 2 rounds this week.
Ostapenko, who saved a match point against Gasanova, turned in her cleanest performance so far against Jimenez Kasintseva, ranked 180 in the world.
The 17-year old Andorran was making her tour-level quarter-final debut, and possesses a hefty strike with her left-handed forehand, which helped her to an early 2-0 lead.
Reigning in her power, Ostapenko, the current World No 19, kept her double-fault tally down to 5, and took control of the match with a run of 8 games in a row to advance to her 5th semi-final of the year, and her first since reaching the Eastbourne final in June.
In the lower half of the draw, the semi-final pits 2nd-seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova against Tatjana Maria, the 7th seed from Germany.
The Russian saved a set point in the second-set tiebreak to defeat 340th-ranked Swiss qualifier Lulu Sun, 7-5 7-6(6), to move into her 4th semi-final of 2022.
Maria needed just 59 minutes to rout Zhu Lin, the 4th seed from China, 6-1 6-1, out-foxing the defending champion with her variety of spins and superb touch at the net.
The German mother-of-two advances to her 3rd semi-final of the season, following Bogota and Wimbledon.