On a baking hot day in Washington, DC, Emma Raducanu showed her true grit in defeating Camila Osorio, 7-6(5) 7-6(4), after a 2 hour 50 minute battle in the sweltering conditions at the Citi Open to advance to the quarter-finals.
Sometimes, in your career, you feel like everything is automatic, you can go for whatever shot you want and it’s going to land. Those weeks don’t come by very often. I’ve just accepted I’m not going to feel like that every week. Mentally I’m really proud of how I’m doing right now. Emma Raducanu
Her only other appearance in the Last 8 in a dozen tournaments the 19-year old has played this year in the first full season of her fledgling career, came back in April on the red clay at Stuttgart in Germany, where she lost to World No 1 Iga Swiatek.
“It has got to be one of the most physical matches I’ve ever played,” Raducanu said after her win over Osorio “It was a pretty monumental effort to really get through that.
“I’m just really pleased and proud of how I dug in when it really mattered. It just gives you a lot of confidence coming through a match like that.
“Physically, I’m pretty pleased with how I held up in that match. Looking forward to going again.”
With temperatures in the 90s and with 62% humidity, it turned into the longest straight-sets main-draw match on the WTA Tour this year that finished just before thunderstorms lashed down, suspending play in other matches at the hard-court tournament.
“It’s flooding pretty bad,” Raducanu said. “You could probably find a mermaid or something…”
Both players needed medical timeouts to manage blisters during an error-strewn contest before the World No 10 sealed her quarter-final spot against 60th-ranked Liudmila Samsonova in the WTA 250 event.
The British No 1, who is the 2nd seed here, was completely exhausted, both physically and mentally, after getting through a pair of tiebreaks.
She had to contend with blisters on her racket hand, and took her medical timeout late in the second set, while Osorio had the trainer on earlier in the match to deal with a blistered big toe.
The Brit won the US Open at Flushing Meadows as a qualifier a year ago at age 18 and, with the defence of her title looming, Raducanu is now facing the prospect of a drop in her ranking, so points from the lead-up events are a precious commodity for her right now.
Thursday’s win will not only give her confidence for the extended hard-court season, but also give her rankings a small boost as she has added 55 points to her tally to move to 2772, which could be crucial ahead of the defence of her US Open crown.
Raducanu started well against Osorio, a 20-year-old ranked 67, and went up 3-0 at the outset, but errors allowed the Colombian to find her feet.
Osorio’s rise up the rankings last year was defined by a series of improbable come-back wins, and her fighting spirit from behind was in evidence against Raducanu.
The World No 10 had a point to lead 5-1 in the first set, and 3 break points to go up a 5-2 double-break in the second, but Osorio deployed the full range of her variety to come within a whisker of stealing both, holding 2 set points at 5-4 in set one, and coming within 2 points from levelling the match at 6-5 in set two.
Less sure when ahead, Osorio aided Raducanu with double-faults on both of her set points in the opener when, having broken back in a 13-minute 7th game and again to lead 5-4, she made 3 double-faults allowing the No 2 seed to level.
In the breaker, Osorio won 5 of 6 points, the last when Raducanu double-faulted, to seize a 5-3 edge, but the Brit won the next 4 points, the last 3 on forehand winners, to capture the set.
In fact, in both tiebreaks, it was Raducanu who shrugged off the loss of her leads to rise to the occasion.
From 5-3 down in the first-set breaker, the 19-year-old reeled off her best trio of points, with a pass, a drop-shot and a return winner, to regain control.
In the second, remarkable defence at 5-4 elicited the error from Osorio and brought up a match point for Raducanu, who converted it with a service winner.
Osorio had served for the match at 5-4 in the second, but got broken, the result of coughing up 3 double-faults and sending a forehand into the net and, again, Raducanu proved the better player in the breaker, closing out the victory when the Colombian sent a service return wide, prompting the 19-year old to drop her racket and cover her eyes with both hands, too exhausted to muster much of a wave to the crowd.
“There were many moments in both sets where you want to go for the easy option of trying to finish the point early, but, yeah, I’m just really pleased, and proud of how I dug in when it really mattered,” she said.
“It was three hours on the court, and I actually warmed up for like an hour this morning. It just gives you a lot of confidence coming through a match like that.”
In the second set, Raducanu had broken with a forehand volley winner for a 2-1 lead, but needed treatment for blisters and Osario battled back to force another tiebreak, in which the Brit took 5 of the final 7 points for the match, the last on a service winner.
“I most enjoy the challenge of continuously coming back and getting back up, getting yourself out of rock bottom a lot of times repetitively,” Raducanu said. “It’s a fun challenge and I’ve twisted my perception of it.
“I’m not viewing it as a negative thing anymore.
“The reward that you feel after a win, knowing you’ve come through that, it means a lot more.”
It was close to midnight, nearly an hour and a half after her opening-round match ended, when Raducanu arrived for her post-match interview, a delay the result of needing attention from the trainer on the two blisters and taking a shower ‘to look nice for you guys!’
Raducanu is a global ambassador for Tiffany & Co, which accounts for the brilliant diamond jewellery she wears to the news conference, as well as endorsements with Dior; and Porsche, among other high-end companies.
This time last year she was sitting for her A level exams in English and math before embarking on a stab at the North American swing, which culminated in astonishing success and catapulted her into stardom.
In describing her performance on Thursday, she said:“I didn’t necessarily play like a wizard today, but I got through it and I fought, and that’s all that matters.”
It led to a follow-up question about Harry Potter, and what Hogwarts House would she be in?
“I’d be in Slytherin, for sure!” she exulted, only too happy to elaborate. “They haven’t got a great rep, but I just think they are really, hmm, cool… they’re pretty, in a way, brutal. They have got a just mysterious sort of side to them, and I like that.”
Raducanu is working on a trial basis with former ATP pro Dmitry Tursunov, who reached No 20 in the world in 2006, and has found post-retirement success as a coach, helping Aryna Sabalenka and Anett Kontaveit to top-10 rankings.
Tursunov, 39, who left his native Russia to train in America at age 12, succeeds Torben Beltz, with whom Raducanu split in April after a 5-month collaboration.
Beltz, who had previously coached fellow German Angelique Kerber to the 2016 Australian and US Open titles, had been brought in to replace Raducanu’s youth coach, Andrew Richardson, who helped her win the US Open without conceding a set.
While the alliance with Tursunov is, for now, an experiment, Raducanu said she feels he already has helped after two weeks of training in advance of the Citi Open.
“He’s definitely trying to make me take things easier on myself,” Raducanu said. “I put a lot of emphasis on everything I do, and I want to do it to the best of my abilities all the time.
“He’s just slowly trying to shift me towards, ‘If it’s not perfect, it’s okay.’ Like, ‘If you shank one, it’s okay.’ Just these sorts of things and being more accepting of that.”
She is coming to terms with life as a touring pro, with all its knocks and sparse successes.
“I’ve learnt that I’m pretty resilient,” Raducanu said. “I’ve pretty much been knocked down every single week — literally in front of everyone. Get back up every single time.”
Raducanu’s quarter-final opponent Samsonova rallied past Australian Ajla Tomljanovic, 4-6 6-3 6-2.
It will be only her 3rd quarter-final since her amazing Grand Slam title run in New York, having reached the Last 8 at Cluj-Napoca last October and Stuttgart in April, but she has yet to make a semi-final since taking the trophy last September at Flushing Meadows.
“Sometimes, in your career, you feel like everything is automatic, you can go for whatever shot you want and it’s going to land,” Raducanu said. “Those weeks don’t come by very often.
“I’ve just accepted I’m not going to feel like that every week.
“Mentally I’m really proud of how I’m doing right now,” Raducanu said.
Samsonova will be another formidable quarter-final test for Raducanu on the first occasion the two will meet.