Emma Raducanu was knocked out of the Citi Open in straight sets by world No 60 Liudmilla Samsonova, going out with a whimper 7-6, 6-1.
The British teenager, who will defend her US Open crown in just 23 days, endured a torrid second set, in which her serves misfired and her groundstroke radar seemed to be miscalibrated.
It had been a long day already. The match was due to start at 5pm (10pm UK), but a three-hour rain delay and the tail end of an epic three-and-a-half hour thriller in which Britain’s Dan Evans lost to Yoshihito Nishioka, meant the players took to the court just before 11pm local time.
Put in to serve first, Raducanu faltered early on and was a break down from the off.
The crowd, featuring a cardboard cutout of the Queen, a handful of Union Jacks and the obligatory fan in an England football shirt, got behind the 19-year-old and she soon found her rhythm, managing to break Samsonova in the second game to love.
Raducanu was far more consistent, wary of Samsonova’s powerful forehand, but able to stay in the rallies long enough to force her opponent to hit it long, wide or into the net.
But Samsonova had a get-out-of-jail card – her serve rifling down at 115mph compared to Raducanu’s 95mph. The young Briton looked visibly shocked as her opponent fired down two aces to go 4-2 up in the first set.
But Raducanu hung in, dug deep, and dipped low behind the baseline to force errors. The first set went to a tie break, with little to separate between the two, and Raducanu seized the advantage, surging to a 5-2 lead as Samsonova hit a drop shot into the net. On serve she had the chance to take the first set, but errant forehands squandered the opportunity.
Suddenly, 5-2 became 6-6, which then became 8-6 to Samsonova.
The energy in the modest crowd of around 500 was drained. Next door on the main stadium court, Frances Tiafoe and Nick Kyrgios were serving up a classic. Music was blaring, people were dancing and Tiafoe was fist pumping those in the first row.
Spectators, including Raducanu’s mother Renee, left the John A Harris court and headed in that direction.
By the start of the second set it was quiet. Raducanu looked dejected. Samsonova found her groove and hit her marks.
Emma Raducanu, who suffered terrible blisters in her last match, was blowing on her hand once again – though she did not appear to have any visible injuries.
The young Briton was too eager to feed Samsonova’s forehand and found herself 3-0 down early on in the second set. After a number of deuces, she managed to hold one service game, but quickly succumbed to Samsonova’s serve. The final three games went by in a blur. The look was of resignation rather than frustration.
Raducanu’s record in 2022 stands at 13 defeats and 10 victories. A quarter final in Washington on her first appearance is a solid effort, but it was a case of what could have been. The winner was due to face world No 96 Xiyu Wang in the semi-final. A final appearance would have given her much needed momentum.
Raducanu will now head north of the border, to compete in the Canadian Open starting on Monday. She will doubtless receive another warm welcome in the country of her birth.
But the clock for New York, and the US Open, is ticking. The coaching set up with Dmitry Tursunov working with her on a “temporary basis” is still puzzling.
She left the Citi Open without fielding questions from the press. There were plenty of questions to ask.