Emma Raducanu’s US Open title defense ended at the first hurdle with a nightmarish loss in straight sets to France’s Alize Cornet at Flushing Meadows in New York.
Raducanu didn’t lose a set in 10 games last year, but on a windy night in New York she was error-prone, losing 3-6, 6-3.
The 19-year-old’s ranking will now drop to around the 80 mark, but after a year that has been far from easy, she may be relieved that moment is over and she can try to build a firmer foundation for her tennis career .
Raducanu, who didn’t lose a set in 10 games last year, was disappointed but welcomed the clean slate that defeat will bring.
“Obviously it’s really disappointing, I’m really sad to leave here. It’s probably my favorite tournament,” said Raducanu.
“But in a way I’m also happy because it’s a clean slate. I will fall down the rankings. Climb back up. The target will be slightly off my back.
“I’ve done a really good job, especially in the last six weeks. I’m just looking forward to consistently getting more of these weeks together then we’ll see what happens.
“From a perspective perspective, I didn’t have a bad year as a 19-year-old. Being in the top 100 if you had told me that a year ago I would take it.”
The fans, concentrated in a sparsely populated Louis Armstrong stadium, gave Raducanu a warm welcome as they welcomed back their highly unlikely champions.
Virginia Wade, who watched in amazement at Raducanu’s success last year, was back on the sidelines, while the biggest difference in the Kent teenager’s support camp now is the presence of Russia’s Dmitry Tursunov, whom she is courting in her search for a permanent coach.
The wind affected the competition from the start, with Raducanu finding it particularly difficult to recapture
free-swinging approach that left her opponents flat-footed but spoke of a determination to be on the front foot in build-up.
She hadn’t lost more than five games in a single set last year but Cornet came out of three straight breaks down the right flank to lead 5-3 in the opener and showed superb defense to win the set.
The Frenchwoman, who had a record 63rd Grand Slam, enjoyed one of the best seasons of her career, with a long-awaited first major quarterfinal in Australia before ending Iga Swiatek’s 37 unbeaten games at Wimbledon.
Raducanu took a medical time-out to treat blisters on her fingers and dropped serve again to start the second set.
However, Cornet gave away plenty of free points from double faults and with the 32-year-old unhappy at the roof closing mid-game, Raducanu reeled off three games in a row.
But she couldn’t hold the advantage, Cornet broke back with the craziest drop shots and pulled back to take the win.
Raducanu vs. Cornet: Match Stats
|50%||Win percentage on 1st serve||64%|
|30%||2nd serve win percentage||38%|
|51/117||Total points earned||66/117|
Swiatek storms through but the Wimbledon winner is knocked out
World #1 Iga Swiatek swept into the second round with a comfortable win over Jasmine Paolini.
Swiatek has not been in top form since her 37-match winning streak ended at Wimbledon, but she had no trouble brushing aside Italy’s Paolini 6-3, 6-0 in sweltering conditions at Flushing Meadows.
“I have the feeling that my level is simply better,” said the Pole. “Let’s see if I can hold out.”
Swiatek will look to improve on her best run to date in New York, which she had last year when she reached the fourth round.
Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina was an early casualty, losing to the French qualifier Clara Burel 6-4 6-4.
Rybakina said before the tournament that she didn’t feel like she was being treated like a Grand Slam winner and that being on the small Court 12 wouldn’t have changed that.
Former champion Sloane Stephens defended herself after a set deficit against Greet Minnen with 1: 6, 6: 3, 6: 3, while Karolina Pliskova defeated Magda Linette with 6: 2, 4: 6, 7: 6 (10: 8).
Fourth Seed Paula Badosa also had to come down from a set to prevail against Lesia Tsurenko as the sixth seed Arina Sabalenka relaxed to a 6-1 6-3 win over Catherine Harrison.
American eighth seed Jessica Pegula defeated Viktorija Golubic 6-2, 6-2 while she was a two-time Grand Slam champion Garbin Muguruza also advanced in straight sets beating Clara Tauson 6-3 7-6 (7-5).