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Emma Raducanu embraces the ugly win as major-winning confidence resurfaces at Citi Open
The reigning US Open champion battled through three hours in oppressive heat to put away former junior colleague Camila Osorio, setting aside her perfectionist streak as title defense looms.
Published Aug 05, 2022
WATCH: Raducanu saved two set points in the opening set and survived nearly three hours in oppressive heat.
WASHINGTON—Emma Raducanu felt like she died three times in her Citi Open match against Camila Osorio, but to extend the modified metaphor, it’s not how many times you die but how many you can come back to life.
“I think that it took me a while, but right now I most enjoy the challenge of continuously coming back and getting back up,” said the No. 2 seed after a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) victory that lasted two hours and 50 minutes—the longest straight-set match of the season—in objectively oppressive heat. “Getting yourself out of rock bottom, really, a lot of times repetitively, I think it's a fun challenge and I think I have twisted my perception of it.”
Raducanu has appeared to be in a state of suspended animation since leaving Flushing Meadows with a maiden major trophy—too young to be dismissed as a one-off winner but too new for anyone to know when her world-beating form would return. The 19-year-old Brit spent months struggling to find even a semblance of level that took her through qualifying and 10 matches in three weeks at the 2021 US Open, all the while tinkering with her team and building up an injury-prone body.
“I don't think I was expecting to play US Open tennis every single week, because I knew myself,” she said in her post-match press conference on Thursday. “I was, you know, so zoned out that I was playing really, really well, some of my best tennis. But I'd say even though maybe in the beginning of the year I was saying, ‘Look, like, doesn't matter, no pressure,' I think that I didn't necessarily buy into it as much as I probably do now.’”
I'm like 100% okay for starting over, to be honest. Like, if my ranking plummets to like No. 1000 and whatever, then I don't care. I know that being a US Open champ I'm going to somehow pull my way back up there. It's going to take a bit of time maybe, but, yeah, I'm just really accepting of that and looking forward to whatever journey it takes. Emma Raducanu
Arriving in Washington, D.C. with new coach Dmitry Tursunov for the first tournament leading up to her US Open return, it was in many ways now or never after six months of early exits and sometimes embarrassing defeats: Raducanu would either rediscover her form in time for a respectable title defense or she would lose well over half the points that currently comprise her ranking.
From her talks with the media, it’s clear Raducanu is hoping for the best even as she prepares for the worst.
“I'm like 100% okay for starting over, to be honest,” she said after her first-round win on Tuesday. “Like, if my ranking plummets to like No. 1000 and whatever, then I don't care. I know that being a US Open champ I'm going to somehow pull my way back up there. It's going to take a bit of time maybe, but, yeah, I'm just really accepting of that and looking forward to whatever journey it takes.
“I'm not viewing it as a negative thing anymore,” she added today. “I'm just seeing, okay, like the cards are not great right now, but what can I do to turn it around. Then the reward that you feel after a win, knowing that you have come through that, it means a lot more.”
But all may not be lost for Raducanu just yet. While there was little to extrapolate from her largely straightforward win over Louisa Chirico, Osorio administered a far more accurate litmus test. The Colombian was fresh off defeating Sofia Kenin, another struggling major champion, and plays the kind of physical game that can cause Raducanu to implode.
“She's a really tricky opponent because she gets everything back and she scraps really well,” said Raducanu of Osorio, a former junior colleague who taught her some Spanish when the two played in Mexico earlier this year. “Her defense is really, really good. So, you have to keep, you know, keep going.
“It’s tough, like, having to generate all the pace over and over and over again. It takes quite a bit out of you. Then when she wants, she can go and hit it quick and flat, and you don't really know what's coming.”
Osorio kept Raducanu off balance from 4-1 down in the opening set, reeling off four straight games but two ill-timed double faults on set point kept her higher-ranked opponent in contention to ultimately outlast her in a pair of tiebreakers—and reach only her third quarterfinal since the US Open.
“I think that physically, to be able to get through that and also mentally, as well—I mean, there were times when I had 4-2, 40-0 on her serve in the second set, and then to be 6-5 down, 30-15 down on my serve—just to be able to turn it around like that, I think mentally I'm really proud of how I'm doing right now.”
By the end, she was mostly relieved to have avoided the storm that subsequently descended on the nation’s capital, claiming to have seen a mermaid amidst the flooding. Tursunov’s off-beat humor has already rubbed off.
I'd say even though maybe in the beginning of the year I was saying, ‘Look, like, doesn't matter, no pressure,' I think that I didn't necessarily buy into it as much as I probably do now. Emma Raducanu
“When you are 5-5 in the breaker, he's still chill, probably making some really bad joke,” she said with a laugh.
Raducanu described a perfectionist streak that had derailed her in months past, but it was an ability to win without her best that helped her survive some trickier moments throughout those 10 matches.
“I have just accepted like, ‘Look, I'm not going to feel like that every week,’ and it's more challenging and more fun when you come through a win like that and a win when you are not necessarily feeling great because you know that there is room to improve.”
Winning ugly, they call it. It was certainly far from the kind of aesthetic tennis Raducanu can conjure with her ostensibly pristine technique, but even if she’s still not quite to the “wizard”-like level she commanded on Arthur Ashe Stadium, it’s been good enough to garner much-needed momentum, one that will only ease the tension as the self-described Slytherin edges ever closer to a in New York resurrection.