Once again Britain’s Emma Raducanu was forced to retire from her semi-final match against Jelena Ostapenko at the Hana Bank Korea Open when a back injury halted her promising run in Seoul.
I think it’s pretty cool to make my first semi-final and build my way on tour the right way, to go through the stages. Emma Raducanu
The 19-year-old Briton was trailing 4-6 6-3, 3-0 to Latvian top seed when she pulled out, sending Ostapenko into the final where she will meet Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova on Sunday.
Raducanu took an off-court medical time-out in the second set to get treatment for a left glute injury, but she could not stay with Ostapenko on resumption, and eventually withdrew in the decider,.
The British No 1 impressively came from a break down to win the first set, but Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, levelled in the second, and had edged ahead in the third.
Raducanu’s first season on the WTA Tour has been blighted by different kinds of injuries, ranging from blisters to side strains as well as hip and back problems.
She was playing in her first semi-final since winning the US Open last year, and putting in a commanding performance against the World No 19 when the trouble flared, possibly exacerbating the injury that curtailed her performance in Portoroz last week.
Raducanu, who has dropped to No 77 in the rankings from a career-high of 10 in July, managed to return to court but won only a few points before conceding the match.
Ostapenko, who won the Korea Open title in 2017, the same year she lifted her maiden Grand Slam trophy at Roland Garros, moves on to meet Alexandrova, the World number 24 and 2nd seed here in Seoul.
Alexandrova made it into her 2nd final of the year by defeating Wimbledon semi-finalist Tatjana Maria, the 7th seed from Germany, 6-2 6-4, earlier on Saturday.
It remains to be seen whether Raducanu is able to play in the upcoming events she has entered, but the form she has shown in Seoul this week, under the guidance of new coach Dmitry Tursunov, is surely encouraging as she won 3 consecutive matches for the first time since winning the 2021 US Open.
The 19-year-old had not won a match on the main tour until she lifted her first Grand Slam title in New York, and now, just over a year later, she made it into the Last 4 for the first time, and had yet to drop a set in Seoul.
She played her best match of the week in the quarter-final to upset 3rd-seeded Magda Linette from Poland, 6-2 6-2.
“I think Magda was feeling it a bit physically,” Raducanu told reporters after her win on Thursday. “She’s had a lot of matches and good wins because she’s a really tough player, and sometimes it catches up with the body.
“I think it’s pretty cool to make my first semi-final and build my way on tour the right way, to go through the stages.”
In their first meeting on tour, Ostapenko and Raducanu opened the match with blistering intensity from the baseline.
Ostapenko saved 3 break points in the opening game to keep a nervy Raducanu at bay, and then broke for a 2-0 lead, but it was short-lived as the Brit broke back immediately to put the set back on serve.
The 6th seed’s early return pressure on the Latvian, carried her for the remainder of the set, as Raducanu took Ostapenko to deuce in her first 3 service games, and then successfully broke through for a second time at 4-4.
With Ostapenko struggling to find a consistent range, Raducanu closed out the first set on her 3rd set point after 53 minutes.
She carried her momentum into the early stages of the second, breaking Ostapenko for a 2-1 lead, but the top seed found her accuracy, and reeled off 2 straight games to get back on serve at 3-2.
After Raducanu took her off-court medical timeout, Ostapenko continued her surge to lead 5-2 and closed out the set to force a third before, after a barrage of winners took her into a 3-0 lead, Raducanu retired in the decider.
The official reason for Raducanu’s retirement came later when the WTA stated this was due to a left glute injury.
Ostapenko finished the abbreviated match with 40 winners to 29 unforced errors, while Raducanu struck 14 winners against 22 miscues.
Both Ostapenko and Alexandrova will be bidding for their 2nd titles of the season on Sunday.
Alexandrova over-powered Maria in straight sets in the first semi-final of the day to advance to her 2nd final of the season, having won s’Hertogenbosch in June.
The 27-year-old fired 29 winners and held Maria to just 2 winners in the match, needing only 69 minutes to advance to her 5th career final.
Alexandrova bolted out of the gates to quickly build a 4-0 lead in the opening set, and took full control from there on in, her big baseline hitting and canny coverage at the net proving too hot for Maria to handle.
Alexandrova and Ostapenko have split their 4 previous meetings on the Hologic WTA Tour, with the Russian winning their last meeting, which came in Madrid earlier this year, where she prevailed, 6-2 4-6 6-4.