ROME, Italy – No one ever knew what it was like to be pushed into the spotlight after winning the US Open as a teenage qualifier. But 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu certainly knows what it’s like to try to support a career onslaught while your body refuses to cooperate.
The long-awaited duel of the first round of Andreescu and Emma Raducano at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia ended abruptly on Tuesday night, when Raducanu was forced to withdraw 6-2, 2-1 due to a lower back injury he had been caring for for weeks. Raducanu had hoped that a few days of rest after leaving the third round in Madrid would allow the injury to heal on its own, but she found herself limited in training in Rome.
“I never knew how bad it was until I went out there,” Raducanu told reporters after the match. “I’m still learning when it’s right to push your body and push it through it, and when it’s not.
“I guess it’s something I kind of learn in these tournaments. The difference is that I probably do it in bigger tournaments, not smaller tournaments on the way up.”
Andreescu could sympathize. After winning her first WTA title at Indian Wells in 2019 at the age of 19, she was excluded from most of the season on clay and all season on grass due to a shoulder injury. She returned and eventually won the Toronto and US Open, but her season came to an end after her meniscus tore in the WTA finals. She did not appear in court for 15 months.
“I think you really have to experience that to really know what you need,” Andreescu told reporters. “But you play with the best players. You really have to have the right diet, the right game plan, like physically, mentally, emotionally, everything.
“It’s not easy to be on tour. From January to the end of October, it’s a lot of time. You really have to schedule your workouts properly, your competition, all that. You also have to know that injuries are part of the game. That’s a lot.” But the best thing you can do is try to prevent it. I think I can give her advice. “
Raducanu’s priority now is to prepare for his Roland Garros debut in two weeks. She showed good quality in her first WTA season on clay, qualifying for the quarter-finals of Stuttgart and the round of 16 in Madrid. Her performances have proven that the surface can be successful for her. If only her body would cooperate.
“I think the last few weeks have been really positive,” Raducanu said. “I learned a lot about myself and my game definitely improved on this background.
“But I definitely have to make sure my back is completely correct, no matter how long it takes. I just have to keep going. I don’t want to play my next match with a sense of limitation because I think I’ve learned my lesson from this week, when to push and when not push. Probably not right today. “
Andreescu said experience over the past three years had taught her it was okay to step down.
“I feel like I know myself and my body more and more now, so I’m able to make that decision,” Andreescu said. “But I also have an amazing team, which is very experienced and has been in the sport for a long time, so they help me too. I feel like I’m the type of player who always wants to go. Maybe just like her. I’d love to play every week.
“When they see me like that, they help me too. They’ll tell me to cool off. I’ll take maybe one day, two days off. Even after two days off, I play even better than maybe I played those two days.”
There is reason to panic because of Raducanu. Still in the middle of her first full season on the Hologic WTA Tour, the 19-year-old is simply going through growth pains. Whole workouts, playing consecutive days, week after week will do their thing. There is no cheating when it comes to fitness. It just takes time and hard work to build a physicality that can withstand the relentless competition of the tour.
“It’s weird because when I play in training, I can practice a good few hours a day,” Raducanu said. “But the quality of the ball I receive in training is not the same when I play these games because I definitely feel that games take me a lot more than I probably should.
“I had a match in Stuttgart, my first round, it was 6-1, 6-2. The next day I felt like I was in pieces,” she said, laughing.
As for Andreescu, she enjoys her progress on the field. She played her first tournament in seven months in Stuttgart and pushed Aryna Sabalenka to three sets. In Madrid, she played an almost perfect match to win over Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins. And although the match ended in retirement, she was extremely pleased with her attitude and the game against Radučan.
I am very happy with everything, Andreescu said. “Basically I feel like I’m very committed, I’m very determined in what I want to do and how I want to do things now.
“I’m actually playing my match against Pegula [in Madrid], it was super up and down, but it was a great reality check from space. I am very pleased to have reunited. Last year I would cry in my pillow for two days in a row. Now I’m just hungrier and more motivated to keep going and be better. “