Emma Raducanu played with 'pretty deep' hand blisters before fizzling out of the Australian Open
- Emma Raducanu fought hard in a three-set loss in the second round of the Australian Open.
- The reigning US Open champ struggled with "pretty deep" hand blisters throughout the match.
Emma Raducanu may have flamed out of the Australian Open, but her tenacious performance on Thursday turned plenty of heads.
The 19-year-old budding star burst onto the scene with an unexpected title run at the 2021 US Open. But in her first Grand Slam tournament since the surprise victory, she fell to world No. 98 Danka Kovinić in a stunning second-round upset.
Hand blisters on the teenager's dominant hand may have been to blame — at least in part.
Raducanu "was struggling with my hand before the match," as a cluster of blisters had developed over the course of the tournament. And while some members of her team had warned against her playing on Thursday, the British wunderkind was determined to try.
"There were some people in my team that maybe didn't want me to play," Raducanu said in her post-match press conference. "But I wanted to go out there and fight through it, see how far I could get."
So she did. But just five games into the match, Raducanu dropped a break and needed medical attention for her ailing hand. She looked to be in serious pain as the staff cleaned out the wound and wrapped it with tape.
Still, she continued. After dropping the first set 4-6, Raducanu battled back in the second for a gritty 6-4 victory that forced a decisive third set.
And she did it all "having completely changed her gameplan mid-match," per ESPN's Tom Hamilton.
Raducanu couldn't rely on big forehand hits to carry her through the match, as contact with the ball increasingly hurt her injured hand. So she got creative, opting instead for forehand slices "and trying to steer everything to her back hand."
While the inventive tactic didn't carry her onto the third round, as Kovinić took the third set 6-1 to win the match, Raducanu's resilience earned praise across the tennis world. And she admitted that she considered retiring mid-match, but decided instead to persevere.
"When I was slicing forehands and really struggling, I was, like, 'Do I?'" Raducanu said after the match. "I fought so hard just to come out to Australia and play here, and I didn't want to go out like that. So I just left it all out on the court."
The young star appeared to be struggling with her right hand during her first-round match, too. As she faced off against fellow former US Open champion Sloane Stephens, Raducanu repeatedly looked down at her hand and winced.
At one point, she even borrowed scissors from the umpire to tend to her wounds.
"From day one, day two, I was getting blisters pop up here and there," Raducanu explained. "This particular one has been with me for about five days. I have been trying to tape it for every practice, and it would harden and dry out, but then once I would play again, another layer would just keep ripping off."
"It ended up being pretty deep," she added. "It's a bit annoying because I know it's something that will heal in a few days, but it's just unfortunate timing."
At the end of the day, Raducanu was reluctant to use that right hand at all. Though she sported a big smile while approaching the net to congratulate Kovinić, she hesitated before lifting her left hand for a high-five rather than the traditional handshake.
—Tennis GIFs (@tennis_gifs) January 20, 2022
Raducanu is sure to be back on the court in short order. Hard court tournaments will continue for the better part of two months before clay season — and the next Grand Slam at Roland Garros — ramps up in the spring.
But in the meantime, she will focus on the positives from her unfortunate early exit.
"That was definitely one thing I learned, that a nice slice forehand is not so bad and I have some sort of hand skills," Raducanu. "That was a positive surprise. To get that second set with basically one shot, I can't believe it really."
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