Emma Raducanu has only played 10 tour-level events in her professional career, but she’s now retired from four of them.
The latest came in the Guadalajara Open, where she suffered a hip injury in the deciding set against Australia’s Daria Saville –– bringing an end to a match that lasted three hours and 36 minutes.
Raducanu was within two points of victory in the second set and only needed to hold her serve to progress. However, Saville fought back to level the contest and the Brit then called for the trainer at 4-3 down in the final set.
The injury proved too severe to continue and she was forced to retire, handing Saville a memorable win.
This was Raducanu’s first appearance since the Australian Open, where she was also hampered by physical problems. The 19-year-old won a pulsating contest against Sloane Stephens to reach the second round but suffered blisters on her hand against Danka Kovinic, which limited her ability to generate any power on her forehand.
Despite hitting forehand slices for almost two sets, Raducanu came agonisingly close to winning the match, though she later revealed she probably wouldn’t have been able to compete in the third round even if she’d won.
The Australian Open was further proof that Raducanu is anything but a quitter, having had her mental strength questioned after last year’s Wimbledon.
Raducanu made the fourth-round at the All England Club in her first-ever major tournament but suffered breathing difficulties against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic that caused her to retire in the second set.
Yet, are these persistent injury problems a cause for concern? The US Open champion admitted she needed to work on her fitness after Melbourne and posted a video recently showing herself lifting weights.
That training, however, did not stop her from struggling physically in Mexico. Granted, she had been playing for more than three and a half hours, yet Raducanu now has a 40 percent retirement rate in tour events and has seemingly come out on the losing side whenever she has struggled.
There could be a number of factors at play. Firstly, though it seems like Raducanu may have problems with her fitness in general, there is every chance all these injuries are just bad luck.
The blisters in Melbourne came after having Covid and barely touching a racquet. The breathing problems likely stemmed from nerves and her latest hip problem came near the end of a gruelling match.
Emma Raducanu has only played 10 tour level events yet already numerous physical issues— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) February 23, 2022
– Breathing issues at Wimbledon
– Illness in Cluj
– Blisters at AO
– Hip injury Guadalajara
Some bad luck and today's retirement came after by far her longest tour match but feels notable.
Equally, these injuries could well be down to a lack of tournament experience. It’s important to remember the Brit is still a teenager and playing her first full year on tour. Her body may not be used to different altitudes, and the strain of having to train and play so regularly.
Either way, there is still no reason to assume the Brit won’t have more success in the future. You don’t win Grand Slams by being a bad tennis player and very few stars have backed up their maiden Slam titles with another straight after.
It will take more time for the teenager to find her feet and feel comfortable on the tour. This could take one year, two years or even longer. But time is what she needs right now. And though her latest defeat marks another poor tournament, it’s still another step in the journey.