Defending U.S. Open Champion Emma Raducanu Loses in the First Round

Emma Raducanu, who won last year’s U.S. Open as a little known 18-year-old qualifier without losing a single set, will not defend her title this year after losing in the first round to Alizé Cornet on Tuesday night.

For Cornet, a 32-year-old Frenchwoman ranked No. 40, the win, 6-3, 6-3, was her second major surprise victory of the year after she upset No. 1 Iga Swiatek in straight sets in the third round of Wimbledon. Cornet achieved her best Grand Slam result earlier this year at the Australian Open, where she reached the quarterfinals before losing to Danielle Collins, who went on to reach the final.

For Raducanu, now 19, the loss came in what has been a challenging year for her in Grand Slam tournaments. Raducanu reached only the second round at each of the first three majors, losing to Danka Kovinic at the Australian Open, Aliaksandra Sasnovich at the French Open and Caroline Garcia at Wimbledon.

“I’m sorry I beat her tonight but I’m really happy with my performance,” Cornet said on the court after the match. “I felt like I played a really solid match, I was fighting my heart out and hanging in there. I think my game at the net was pretty good, I think it was a bit of everything, playing with a bit of variation, and it definitely worked tonight.”

Alizé Cornet of France celebrating after defeating Raducanu.Credit…Elsa/Getty Images

Cornet and Raducanu stepped into a breezy Louis Armstrong Stadium on Tuesday as the American flag hanging above the court moved swiftly from the start of the match through the end. They played before a modest crowd on a night that featured Rafael Nadal on the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium at the same time.

The match got off to a close start, with each player splitting the first six games. Then, down 4-3 in the first set, Raducanu failed to tie up the set on her serve, double faulting to bring the match to 5-3.

Up 40-30 in the next game, Cornet threw her arms up into the air, calling for cheers from a crowd that had been supporting Raducanu from the beginning. Cornet went on to take the set, 6-3, with a forehand winner.

The set was the first Raducanu had dropped in her career at the U.S. Open.

After the first set, a medical trainer was called onto the court, and appeared to be treating Raducanu’s right hand. Raducanu struggled with blisters earlier this year.

Cornet took the first game of the second set, and Raducanu took the next game, and then another, winning the final point with an ace.

Then down 40-15, Cornet decided to go with a drop shot that Raducanu could not reach, but Raducanu came back quickly, winning the next point to go up 3-1.

Cornet pushed the set to 3-2 with a backhand winner, and she then tied the set at three games apiece without giving up any points. Cornet took the next game to go up 4-3, as Raducanu lost the break with a backhand unforced error into the net.

As she stepped back onto the court, down 4-3, Raducanu looked up into the crowd as if she were searching for someone or something. The crowd responded with several people yelling “c’mon, Emma.”

Serving at 4-3, Cornet took the next game, with Raducanu hitting into the net on the final point.

Raducanu failed to extend the match on her serve. Down 40-30, Raducanu hit a backhand volley out, giving Cornet the win.

The match would have been significant for Cornet even if she had lost. This year’s U.S. Open is Cornet’s 63rd consecutive appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament, a record streak in the Open era that started at the 2007 Australian Open, where she lost in the first round.

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