Emma Raducanu’s US Open title defense ended with a loss to Alize Cornet


or Emma Raducanu, lightning cannot strike twice and the hope of emulating her fairytale of New York a year ago fell at the first hurdle.

The US Open defending champion went into his opening round match insisting there was no pressure despite the events of the past 12 months.

But facing one of the toughest first-round draws against one of the most prolific players on tour, Alize Cornet, was always going to be a tough task.

And so it proved, Cornet, a player who dubbed herself the “upset girl” who reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and ended Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak at Wimbledon, proving too good for 6-3 , 6- 3 results.

There were moments where Raducanu threatened to ignite the style of aggressive, almost nonchalant tennis that won him a shock title last year but, against the talented Cornet, he was uneasy in his rhythm

The defeat was not a huge shock on the back of a difficult year for the 19-year-old in which he struggled for fitness and consistency on Tour. Cornet, the world No40, is playing in his 63rd straight Grand Slam. For Raducanu, it was only the sixth overall.

Prior to the match, Raducanu had not dropped a set at the US Open having previously gone through three rounds of qualifying and the entire main draw unblemished on his record.

The Briton broke his serve seven times in all but closely matched Cornet for a fairly tight, undulating first set after which he needed a medical timeout for blisters.

Blisters, among other injuries, plagued his first full year on tour. On the eve of the tournament on Friday, the No11 seed was seen in tears on court and receiving treatment on his wrist. He later dismissed it as “one of those bad days”.

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It was perhaps surprisingly not a sell-out at Louis Armstrong Stadium for the defending champions, who are clearly fan favourites. There were signs of a comeback after recovering from a break down in the opening set to go 3-1 before being pushed off the court for the remainder by a wily Cornet.

“Obviously, it’s really disappointing, really sad to leave here,” Raducanu said following his first-round exit. “This one hurts a bit because it’s probably my favorite tournament. But also in a way happy because it’s a clean state. I’ll just start over.

“I don’t know what my ranking will be. Probably quite low. In perspective, actually as a 19-year-old, I didn’t have a bad year. To be in the top hundred, if you had told me that a year ago, I would have accepted. I will lower the ranking, I will go up. In a way, the target was quite far behind me. I have one more chance to get back there.”

He’ll drop more than 2,000 points in the rankings, which would see him drop to something in the region of 80.th in the revised rankings post-tournament. In doing so, he may even lose his status to Harriet Dart as British No1.

The grim New York night conditions didn’t necessarily play to Raducanu’s strengths as a confident Cornet, at 32 in potentially his final year on tour, dictated the match.

“The way the conditions were, it was a little difficult because the ball was moving around for me to really swing,” Raducanu said. “Alize’s defense is quite good. I thought he was just taking it all back.

“There are junk balls on the idle court. With the wind blowing around, it’s really hard. He just kept coming back to it. I take pride in putting myself out there every match, every day, knowing I’m pushing myself to be the best I can be.