Emma Raducanu’s US Open title defence ended at the first hurdle with a nightmare straight-sets loss to wily Frenchwoman Alize Cornet at Flushing Meadows in New York.
Raducanu did not drop a set in 10 matches last year but she was error-prone on a windy New York evening and fell to a 6-3 6-3 defeat.
The 19-year-old’s ranking will now plummet to around the 80 mark but, after a year that has been far from easy, she may feel a sense of relief that this moment is over and she can seek to build more solid foundations for her tennis career.
The fans that were inside a sparsely populated Louis Armstrong Stadium gave Raducanu a hearty reception as they welcomed back their most unlikely of champions.
Virginia Wade, who watched Raducanu’s success last year with astonishment, was back courtside while the major difference in the Kent teenager’s support camp now is the presence of Russian Dmitry Tursunov, who she is trialling as she looks for a permanent coach.
The wind impacted the contest from the start, with Raducanu finding it particularly difficult to recapture the same
free-swinging approach that left her opponents flat-footed but spoke in the build-up of a determination to be on the front foot.
She had not lost more than five games in any set last year but Cornet came out on the right side of three successive breaks to lead 5-3 in the opener and showed excellent powers of defence to clinch the set.
The Frenchwoman, playing in a record 63rd Grand Slam, has been enjoying one of the best seasons of her career, with a long-awaited first major quarter-final in Australia before she ended Iga Swiatek’s 37-match unbeaten run at Wimbledon.
Raducanu took a medical time-out to have blisters on her fingers attended to and dropped serve again to start the second set.
Cornet was giving away plenty of free points through double faults, though, and, with the 32-year-old unhappy to see the roof closing during play, Raducanu reeled off three games in a row.
But she could not hold onto the advantage, Cornet breaking back with the wickedest of drop shots and pulling away to claim victory.
Raducanu vs Cornet: Match Stats
|50%||1st serve win percentage||64%|
|30%||2nd serve win percentage||38%|
|51/117||Total points won||66/117|
Swiatek storms through but Wimbledon champion is knocked out
World No 1 Iga Swiatek swept into the second round with a comfortable victory over Jasmine Paolini.
Swiatek has not been in great form since her 37-match winning run ended at Wimbledon but she had no trouble brushing aside Italian Paolini 6-3 6-0 in sweltering conditions at Flushing Meadows.
“I feel like my level is just better,” said the Pole. “We’ll see if I’m going to hold on to that.”
Swiatek will be looking to better her best run in New York so far, which came last year when she reached the fourth round.
Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina was an early casualty, losing to French qualifier Clara Burel 6-4 6-4.
Image: Elena Rybakina fell at the first hurdle at Flushing Meadows
Rybakina said ahead of the tournament she does not feel she is being treated like a Grand Slam champion and being scheduled on the small Court 12 would not have changed that.
Former champion Sloane Stephens fought back from a set down to beat Greet Minnen 1-6 6-3 6-3, while Karolina Pliskova overcame Magda Linette 6-2 4-6 7-6 (10-8).
Fourth seed Paula Badosa also had to come from a set down to see off Lesia Tsurenko while sixth seed Aryna Sabalenka eased to a 6-1 6-3 victory over Catherine Harrison.
American eighth seed Jessica Pegula beat Viktorija Golubic 6-2 6-2 while two-time Grand slam champion Garbine Muguruza also advanced in straight sets beating Clara Tauson 6-3 7-6 (7-5).
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