Emma Raducanu’s run in Cincinnati ends after being overpowered by Jessica Pegula

·20 min read
emma - Dylan Buell/Getty 
emma - Dylan Buell/Getty

Emma Raducanu’s resurgent run at the Western and Southern Open came to an end after the Briton was overpowered by home favourite Jessica Pegula in straight sets.

The British No 1 had been vying to win her third consecutive match for the first time this calendar year, but was powerless to match the American’s clinical backhand game, slumping to a 7-5, 6-4 defeat.

It marked the end of an encouraging week for the British No 1, who showed signs that she had recaptured the form that saw her win the US Open as a qualifier before she returns to Flushing Meadows in 10 days’ time for the defence of her grand slam crown.

For large periods she was unable to match Pegula’s aggressive and varied ball-striking and always looked second best in a contest where her hopes of recording a first victory against a top 10 player quickly faded.

The Bromley teenager smiled and gave a brief wave to the crowd as she left the court in Cincinnati, seemingly satisfied with her progress in a week which saw her thump two former grand slam champions in Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka.

Pegula, however, was a totally different beast. The 28-year-old has been on an upwards trajectory in 2022 and is enjoying one of the best years of her career, having earned the nickname ‘Mrs Consistency’ for her rise up the rankings to world No 7.

Raducanu could not match her opponent's aggressive hitting - AP
Raducanu could not match her opponent's aggressive hitting - AP

It was little wonder, then, that she diffused Raducanu's offensive baseline game, stretching the Briton across the back of the court with an aggressive game plan that would tease 21 unforced errors out of the US Open champion, who never really found her groove.

The pair traded early breaks early on in the first set, but Raducanu made it hard work for herself during energy-sapping passages of play in which she twice had to claw her way back from 0-40 down to hold serve.

She conducted herself with the same business-like aura she had displayed against Williams and Azarenka earlier on in the week, rarely allowed herself to show much emotion, save for a solitary fist-pump after holding serve 5-4 in the first set.

She then fell victim to Pegula’s crisp ball striking from the baseline and gifted her opponent the crucial break with an error-strewn service game, before the American closed out proceedings with a thundering forehand down the line - one of the 21 winners the 2019 Cincinnati champion fired past her younger opponent.

Pegula's consistency has seen her fly up the rankings - GETTY IMAGES
Pegula's consistency has seen her fly up the rankings - GETTY IMAGES

Despite showing flashes of the composure that saw her string 10 consecutive matches en route to her iconic US Open title last year, Raducanu was unable to press the reset button in the second set as Pegula continued to pounce, breaking her in the third game.

She was aided by an untimely double-fault from the Briton, whose serve, despite the seven aces she rattled down throughout the encounter, was not the same irrepressible force it had been against Williams and Azarenka. At one point, the Briton glanced up to her box and looked directly at Dmitry Tursunov, the Russian coach who she is currently trialing, as if to look for answers.

But against Pegula, she could not find any. This is the sixth quarter-final the American has made all season - a tour-leading tally that no other female player can vouch for - and a stat which underlines her US Open credentials.

In another measure of her dominance, she has now won 34 matches at the WTA 1000 level, which is two wins shy of world No 1 Iga Swiatek's tour-leading streak of 36 wins - the longest streak by a female player in the 21st century.

The high-flying American will face France's Caroline Garcia for a spot in her second straight WTA 1000 semi-final, a week on from having triumphed at the Canadian Open.

Raducanu loses to Pegula, as it happened

02:09 AM

Raducanu's momentum halted... again

All in all, Raducanu has shown some encouraging signs and she can be happy with how she has played in Cincinnati. It's been her best week of the year for her by a country mile, despite the fact she fell short today. Credit to Pegula who, armed with her huge backhand, bossed the Briton around the court with some incredible passages of play.

Next up, it's the big one. Raducanu will begin the defence of her US Open crown in 10 days time.

It's just gone 9pm local time and we're into the early hours here so thanks for staying up, that's all from me tonight.

01:54 AM

Second set Emma Raducanu* 5-7, 4-6 Jessica Pegula (*denotes next server

A great start for Raducanu in this must-win game as Pegula rifles into the net, 0-15. Raducanu then throws the kitchen sink at her American opponent but Pegula somehow, manages to craft a lob out of the tighest of angles to send Raducanu scuttling back and trying one of her own, but it doesn't work out.

She follows it up with an ace, 30-15. Everything is going her way the moment, before Raducanu sends a backhand into the net. Match point for Pegula.

Cool, calm and collected, Pegula delivers a strong serve which spins off Raducanu's outstretched racquet, and that's it. GAME SET MATCH PEGULA.

Raducanu's tournament debut in Ohio is over, but she can take plenty from her experience in Cincinnati.

01:49 AM

Second set Emma Raducanu 5-7, 4-5 Jessica Pegula* (*denotes next server)

A good start from Raducanu but Pegula, out of nowhere, delivers another searing backhand which wrongfoots Raducanu, 30-15. The Briton decides to challenge a long return but again doesn't haven any fortune, 30-30, before a blistering forehand from Pegula, 40-30.

Raducanu maintains her cool and sends down two massive serves - including her seventh ace of the match - to come through unscathed. But Pegula will serve for the match.

01:43 AM

Second set Emma Raducanu* 5-7, 3-5 Jessica Pegula (*denotes next server)

Raducanu is desperately trying to mix things up but Pegula is wise to it all. The Briton dinks a lice over but Pegula responds with a stinging forehand. At 40-15 up, the American unleashes another impressive forehand and all of a sudden she's one game away from closing out this match,

01:39 AM

Second set Emma Raducanu 5-7, 3-4* Jessica Pegula (*denotes next server)

A much better service game from Raducanu, who sails into a 40-0 lead with a series of astute serves which prove too hot to handle for Pegula, who then rifles a return into the net. Raducanu is still in this contest, she's competing with the American but hasn't done enough yet to truly trouble her.

01:35 AM

Second set Emma Raducanu* 5-7, 2-4 Jessica Pegula (*denotes next server)

A quiet fist pump from Raducanu as Pegula nets, 15-15. Raducanu launches a backhand long which she requests the umpire to check, but it is well wide, 30-15. Pegula drives a powerful backhand which leaves Raducanu stranded on the wrong side of the court and there's an audible, 'Come on!' from the American, 40-15.

Some good hustling from Raducanu sees her earn the next point as Pegula hits beyond the baseline, 40-30, before she levels to deuce with a backhand winner.

Incredible precision from Pegula, who bullies the Briton with a flurry of fine backhands before Raducanu sends the ball high and wide. Advantage Pegula, and she holds.

01:30 AM

Second set Emma Raducanu 5-7, 2-3 Jessica Pegula* (*denotes next server)

This time it's a better start for Raducanu, who wins the first few points before firing down another ace, 40-0. She could do with a couple more short points like that. She whips a sweet cross-court backhand which Pegula races to, but can only return wide. Nicely done.

01:27 AM

Second set Emma Raducanu* 5-7, 1-3 Jessica Pegula (*denotes next server)

Raducanu glances up to her box and appears to be looking directly at Dmitry  Tursunov  the Russian coach who she is currently trialing, as if trying to ask why she can't find her groove.

An easy hold for Pegula. Raducanu can't knock the American off her perch at the moment and needs to finds another gear.. and fast.

01:23 AM

Second set Emma Raducanu 5-7, 1-2 Jessica Pegula* (*denotes next server)

Pegula jazzes her backhand dominance with a delicious drop shot and Raducanu, racing towards it, slices a return long, 0-15. Oh dear... she then wallops a volley way wide, 0-30. The Briton responds with a laser-focused forehand winner, 15-30, but then splays a backhand long to gift a break point to Pegula, 15-40.

The pair then engage in an enthralling rally. Raducanu punches a ferocious forehand down the line but Pegula is so resistant and hits everything  back that the Briton throws at her. Raducanu eventually manages to work the angle correctly to convert a forehand winner and claw a point back.

But all her hard work is undone with an untimely double fault.

Pegula is up a set and a break.

01:17 AM

Second set Emma Raducanu* 5-7, 1-1 Jessica Pegula (*denotes next server)

Pegula is achieving such fantastic depth with her backhand at the moment. It's a real weapon of hers and it's thrawting Raducanu. The American makes light work of this service game and is on the board in this second set.

01:14 AM

Second set Emma Raducanu 5-7, 1-0 Jessica Pegula* (*denotes next server)

Wow, Raducanu wins the first point on her service game. That's a change. Pegula pounces with a sublime forehand winner - she's made very few unforced errors so far,  before Raducanu misses, 15-30.

Raducanu lands a timely ace, 30-30, before another go-to serve out wide which Pegula deals with, but forces a backhand into the net, 40-30. Pegula returns long and it's a good hold from Raducanu. That was a test of her serve and her nerve.

01:10 AM

Raducanu has it all to do in the second set

emma - Dylan Buell/Getty Images
emma - Dylan Buell/Getty Images

01:07 AM

First set Emma Raducanu* 5-7 Jessica Pegula (*denotes next server)

It's all beginning to unravel for Raducanu, who's head is down. She's lost her mojo a bit and hits long again. Pegula thunders down a forehand which Raducanu makes no attempt to chase down and she takes the opening set!

That was an absorbing first set from the pair. Raducanu made it harder for herself than she needed to - twice coming back from 0-40 - but needs to change things up a bit if she wants to get her nose in front.

01:03 AM

First set Emma Raducanu 5-6 Jessica Pegula* (*denotes next server)

Raducanu again loses the opening point and this time it's all too much. Pegula is striking the ball so crisply from the baseline and is making the Briton work. There's real aggression in her play at the moment which calm Raducanu can't seem to match.

Raducanu has wriggled out of a few sticky situations already in this match but you feel this is a critical stage... and Pegula has the break! She'll have the chance to serve for the set.

12:58 AM

First set Emma Raducanu* 5-5 Jessica Pegula (*denotes next server)

Pegula serving to stay in this first set. She wins the first point before delivering a pin-point backhand which falls delightfully inside the line. That was impressive. The pair then trade drop shots, Pegula tries to lob Raducanu, whose return forehand volley didn't quite have enough sting on it and Pegula responds with a tasty passing shot down the line. Epic stuff from the pair, as Pegula sends down a tricky serve to come through 40-15.

12:53 AM

First set Emma Raducanu 5-4 Jessica Pegula* (*denotes next server)

Not a great start for Raducanu, who double faults and hasn't quite got to grips with the new balls yet, 0-15, before two more unforced errors and Pegula finds herself 0-40 up. Patient play from Raducanu, she resists thrashing the ball too much and camps the American into the corner, who then splays into the net, 15-40.

But Raducanu swipes long and it's a break point for Pegula. Wow, what a serve from Raducanu! That was a brilliant response, and she levels to deuce. She serves out wide on the deuce side and takes the advantage, before Pegula returns long!

A small fist pump from Raducanu - we haven't seen many of those over the past few days - but she certainly knows the value of winning that won. She comes from 0-40 down again to hold.

12:48 AM

First set Emma Raducanu* 4-4 Jessica Pegula (*denotes next server)

A smart game from Pegula, who holds comfortably again.

12:44 AM

First set Emma Raducanu 4-3 Jessica Pegula* (*denotes next server)

A slippery start for Raducanu before she forces the error from Pegula, 15-15, before unleashing a sublime backhand down the line, 30-15. Two quick fire serves and Pegula returns both long. That was a much easier hold for the teenager.

12:42 AM

First set Emma Raducanu* 3-3 Jessica Pegula (*denotes next server)

Savvy stuff from Pegula. She bides her time and teases out some admirable defensive play from Raducanu, but Pegula has her dashing from one corner of the baseline to the other, and she coverts a cool forehand winner. She follows up with some dominant play and doesn't give Raducanu an inch, as the Briton fires into the net, 40-15.

That was a much better hold of serve for the American.

12:38 AM

First set Emma Raducanu 3-2 Jessica Pegula* (*denotes next server)

A lengthy rally sees Raducanu bring Pegula towards the net before attempting to lob the American but the ball falls cruelly wide, 0-15. She then slices into the net 0-30, before returning long, 0-40, and gifts Pegula two break points.

Raducanu claws a winner back, and follows up with  some excellent footwork from Raducanu, who rips a searing forehand deep into the corner and forces the mistake from Pegula, 30-40 and fights to bring it to deuce. She wins her fourth point in a row and has the advantage, but then double faults for the first time in this match. Pegula can't capitalise and squanders the break point, as Raducanu eventually comes through to hold.

That was an absorbing game - and a great comeback for Raducanu from 0-40 down.

12:31 AM

First set Emma Raducanu* 2-2 Jessica Pegula (*denotes next server)

It's worth remembering Raducanu has never beaten a top 10 player and she's already got a battle on her hands against seventh seed Pegula. It's controlled, aggressive hitting so far from the American, who is calmly setting out her stall here. She's on the front foot but Raducanu squeezes through a sublime forehand winner to bring it to deuce.. and she takes the advantage after Pegula splays a shot long.

Raducanu then tries to angle another forehand down the line but is well wide. Pegula relentlessly pings the Briton in a corner with a series of fierce forehands but wallops a sitting volley long.. oops. Advantage again Raducanu, but she squanders the break point again with another shot into the net.

A third break piont for Raducanu and.. Pegula splays a return wide! Raducanu breaks back immediately.

12:22 AM

First set Emma Raducanu 1-2 Jessica Pegula* (*denotes next server)

We've just been treated to the first glimpse of Pegula's strong backhand, which stretches Raducanu and the Briton returns wide, 0-15. The American follows up with a dominant forehand winner, 0-30. A solid second serve from Raducanu, 15-30, before she casually serves up a third ace of the match, 30-30. Another huge, accurate and powerful serve which Pegula is powerless to return, 40-30 but she wastes the next rally into net.. and we're at deuce.

Pegula angles a short, sharp backhand winner which dinks beautifully over the net to earn a break point, but Raducanu is so calm and composed. She brings up another astute serve and Pegula hits long - deuce again.

But the Briton again can only find the net in the next rally that ensues.. and then hits long beyond the baseline and Pegula gets the early break!

12:16 AM

First set Emma Raducanu* 1-1 Jessica Pegula (*denotes next server)

Pegula makes light work of her first service game. She fires one down and there's some wicked spin on it and the ball skies of Raducanu's racquet as she tries to connect with it, before splaying a return into the net.

12:14 AM

First set Emma Raducanu 1-0 Jessica Pegula* (*denotes next server)

The pair test each other out in their first rally and Raducanu ends up splaying a return into the net, before firing down a huge second ace, 15-15. Boom, she quickly serves up another straight after, 30-15. The Briton has really upped her serving game over the past few days. The pair trade some heavy blows and it's Pegula who forces an error from Raducanu, who hits beyond the baseline.

But she comes through and holds, as Pegula strikes another return wide. Raducanu is up and running.

12:09 AM

Coin toss

Pegula comes out on top and elects to receive.  It's a balmy 25 degrees in Cincinnati, although the humidity isn't too high.

Yamilla Halle is our umpire for this one.

12:04 AM

The players emerge

Sporting a black baseball cap, Pegula has her headphones in and looks in the zone.

Raducanu, meanwhile, has her usual white cap on and leads the pair out onto court. A huge smile spreads across her face as she walks out into the stadium, where she is greeted warmly by the spectators who have decided to take their seats early - which doesn't seem to be the done thing in Cincinnati.

11:54 PM

Raducanu is on her way

It's approaching 7pm local time in Cincinnati and the match is scheduled to start on time.

The Briton is eager to build up momentum ahead of her US Open defence that begins in New York at the end of this month and a third straight victory at this warm-up tournament really would do her a world of good, especially considering the mixed year she's had since her Flushing Meadows success.

11:41 PM

Elsewhere in Cincinnati..

There’s been a bit of a major upset elsewhere in the women’s draw after Iga Swiatek was beaten by 2019 Cincinnati champion Madison Keys 6-3, 6-4. That’s undoubtedly Key’s biggest win of her career.

Things are certainly looking good for American women’s tennis. Pegula will no doubt be inspired by her compatriot’s victory.

11:33 PM

Who is Jessica Pegula?

Alongside Danielle Collins and Coco Gauff, Pegula is giving the fans plenty to be excited about as we edge closer to the US Open.

The 28-year-old has been on an upwards trajectory in 2022 and is enjoying one of the best seasons of her career, going deep at all the slams. Having started the year inside the top 20, the Buffalo native has climbed to an all-time high ranking of world number 7.

She reached the quarterfinals and third round at this year’s French Open and Wimbledon respectively and at the start of the year made the Australian Open quarter-finals for the second time in her career and was stopped only by eventual champion Ash Barty.

If that wasn’t enough, she won last week's Canadian Open.

jessica - EDUARDO LIMA/Shutterstock
jessica - EDUARDO LIMA/Shutterstock

11:26 PM

The battle of the No.1s

Here’s what Raducanu had to say on facing the current American No.1 and home favourite Pegula:

It’s going to be a tough match. She’s playing at home as well so I’m sure the crowd are going to get behind her, but it’s all good because I’ve experienced that.

I don’t think I’m going to play in front of more than Serena Williams at home, so I’m looking forward to it and I’ll prepare as best I can.

11:13 PM

Is Raducanu back to her best?

That is the question fans are wondering after the 19-year-old cruised to comprehensive wins over Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka at the Western and Southern Open this week.

The Briton appears to be benefitting from a more free-swinging approach, with her serve and forehand back on song.

Have a read of Uche Amako’s in-depth analysis of why Raducanu is showing all the signs that she has recaptured  the form that saw her win the US Open as a qualifier.

emma - Frey/TPN/Getty Images
emma - Frey/TPN/Getty Images

11:02 PM

Good evening

Welcome to our live coverage of Emma Raducanu vs Jessica Pegula in the third round of the Western & Southern Open.

The British No.1 has been flying in Ohio, having backed up her thumping victory over Serena Williams with a straight sets demolition of Victoria Azarenka on Wednesday night.

The 10th seed dropped only four games against tennis great Williams on Monday and two against two-time major champion Azarenka, bagelling the former in the second set, before picking up where she left off by hammering the Belarusian the first set 6-0.

Raducanu’s back-to-back wins over two of the biggest names in tennis will no doubt give her confidence ahead of tonight's clash against home hope Pegula, the American seventh seed.

The US Open champion is bidding to do something she has not achieved this calendar year: win three matches in a row.

The Bromley teenager stunned the world when she won 10 consecutive matches at Flushing Meadows last year, but has struggled to string any consistency together since her iconic grand slam success.

The only other time the world no. 13 reeled off three wins on the trot was at last year’s Wimbledon, when she memorably reached the fourth round in a breakout summer.

After a mixed bag of results since her fairytale of New York, Raducanu finally appears to be hitting some form less than a fortnight before the start of the US Open.

The Western and Southern Open is her 16th tournament since her grand slam triumph and another victory tonight in Cincinnati will not only see her advance to the quarter-finals, but move back into the top 10 of the WTA rankings.

Pegula, meanwhile, booked her place in the third round with a gutsy win over Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk, claiming a 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-2 victory.

The winner of tonight’s encounter will face Caroline Garcia in the quarter-final, after the Frenchwoman beat Elise Mertens 6-4, 7-5 to reach the last eight.