Emma Raducanu said there was “not much she can do”, after she was forced to retire through injury midway through the deciding set of her dramatic three-and-a-half hour first-round match in Guadalajara.
Top seed Raducanu, 19, struggled with a left hip problem late in the third set against 610th-ranked Daria Saville, in what was the WTA’s longest match of the year so far despite its premature end.
“Tough match, but I mean not much I can do,” Raducanu said in a brief interview post-match, adding that the positive she would take was that “it was a good fight”.
It was another disappointing early exit from a tournament for the US Open champion, who was appearing for only the first time since the Australian Open last month, where blisters hampered her second-round loss there.
With Indian Wells only a couple of weeks away, Raducanu hobbling off the court was a worrying sight, especially considering that, two months into the first full season of her career, she was only playing her fourth match of the year.
The ending was all the more disheartening for Raducanu in Mexico because she was just two points away from reaching the second round at a set and 5-3 up, only for Savile (née Gavrilova) to forge an unlikely comeback.
A one-time top 20 player, who switched allegiance from Russia to Australia, Saville, 27, has seen her ranking plummet after nursing a long-term Achilles injury in recent years. She only gained entry to the WTA 250 tournament in Guadalajara through a special ranking.
But she showed her competitive spirit in a topsy-turvy match, where neither player managed to maintain a high level for prolonged periods, and eventually pushed the second set to a tiebreak before outlasting the injured Raducanu.
Interestingly, after hitting the three hour-mark early in the decider, it looked to be the Australian who was closer to retiring. Under pressure on her serve again, with Raducanu 2-0 up, Saville collapsed after her landing leg cramped up. Remarkably, she recovered to hold onto the game. Though Raducanu challenged the point that clinched it for her opponent, she was bizarrely told HawkEye was down and that she would have to rely on the umpire’s original call.
After a little bit of back and forth between her and the umpire, which bought Saville time in the changeover for more attention on her cramping leg, the Australian then immediately broke back against a distracted-looking Raducanu.
When Saville took the lead for the first time since early in the first set at 3-2 up, Raducanu suddenly called on the trainer and went for an off-court seven-minute medical time out. Upon her return, with heavy strapping on the top of her left thigh, she was moving very gingerly but managed to hobble her way through her next service game. While she kept her sense of humour, laughing after hitting an unlikely winner on game point, she then decided she could not continue on her next service game.
Afterwards, in the customary on-court interview, Saville was asked about Raducanu’s retirement but offered no show of support for the teenager.
“I worked hard and believed in myself, so I think I won it,” Saville said. “This is probably the first match in a long time when I felt like I was being myself. The most important thing was to compete.”