Emma Raducanu missed out on a chance to play her first ever WTA Tour final as she retired injured mid-match in her Korea Open semi-final against Jelena Ostapenko. Fitness problems struck again for the Briton, who required a medical timeout in the second set due to a glute problem. She conceded defeat at 6-4, 3-6, 0-3 to the top seed in Seoul despite having taken the opening set.
Raducanu has had a difficult 2022 due to problems with her form, fitness and confidence but had looked to be in full flow in East Asia. The world No 77, who was 11th in the world at the end of August, had put together by far her best run of the year.
She was hopeful of marking that improvement by making the final – especially after taking the first set in impressive fashion against Ostapenko. Yet the 19-year-old, who had strung together three straight wins for the first time in 2022 heading into this semi-final, retired at 3-0 down in the third after winning just one of six games following her enforced timeout.
Raducanu as a result misses out on only her second career final after her 2021 US Open triumph. Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova, the tournament’s second seed, awaits Ostapenko in Sunday’s final. It is a fresh setback for the Briton, who looked to finally be putting together a real run of form in Korea.
Raducanu started well and had a chance to immediately break No 1 seed Ostapenko at the first opportunity but squandered two break points. Instead it was the Latvian who achieved the first break of serve in Raducanu’s first service game.
The Briton immediately broke back, though, courtesy of a terrific forehand winner. She then comfortably held in her next two service games after that as the teenager found her rhythm.
At 3-3, she was forcing Ostapenko to play three points more on average in her service games as she took the match to her opponent. The roles reversed in the next game which was far simpler for Ostapenko but the British No 1 was game for the fight after that, digging herself out of a hole at love-30 to defend once more.
And an Ostapenko double fault gave Raducanu the break to serve for the set, and she seized the advantage. But that was not before the former excellently defended two set points. The third saw Raducanu wrap up set one after 53 minutes.
Raducanu broke Ostapenko in just her second service game in the second set and it looked as though she had the upper hand. But she relinquished that advantage straight away as the world No 19 broke back instantly, the Briton rather tamely giving up her serve.
The momentum swung Ostapenko’s way dramatically after she clinched a love service game, the first of the match. Raducanu then called the trainer to stretch her lower back and had to go off court for a medical timeout.
Raducanu went away from three minutes of treatment on her left glute and returned at the service line. But she lost her serve once more before succumbing to another love service game after that.
The Briton seemed to restore some much-needed confidence as she held with a down-the-line forehand but Ostapenko recovered from 0-30 down on serve to clinch the second set. Raducanu’s serve dropped significantly with Ostapenko hitting far more winners.
That theme continued in the third as she won the first three games inside 10 minutes. And Raducanu, hindered physically, opted to concede defeat having won just one of six games post-timeout. It brings to an end a promising run in Korea, and she will hope to continue where she left off when she returns to the court. She at least improves to world No 66 thanks to her run to the semi-finals.