NEW YORK — Emma Raducanu, who made a dream run to the US Open title last year, suffered a nightmare 6-3 6-3 first round loss to France Alize Cornet on Tuesday as the clock finally struck midnight on an improbable tennis fairytale.
Ms. Raducanu captivated the sporting world when she became the first qualifier to claim a Grand Slam title, winning 10 matches in New York without dropping a set, catapulting her career into the stratosphere and making her one of the most marketable athletes on the planet.
Twelve months ago Ms. Raducanu arrived at her opening match an unknown with no expectations or pressure but on Tuesday the 19-year-old sometimes appeared to be carrying the weight of world on her slender shoulders.
Not only was Ms. Raducanu defending her one and only title but a massive 2,040 of her 2,756 ranking points and with those gone the world number 11 will drop out of the top 70 and back having to qualify for some events or depend on wildcards.
But the loss, said Ms. Raducanu, has also brought freedom and a clean slate that will allow her to reconstruct her game and career without unrealistic expectations.
CRAFTY VETERANMs. Raducanu got her defense off to a positive start breaking Ms. Cornet at the first opportunity but the crafty French veteran, making a record 63rd consecutive Grand Slam appearance, would immediately break back.
The two players would trade breaks a second time before Ms. Cornet would break the young Briton a third time to get in front 5-3 and hold serve to secure the 1-0 lead.
It was the first set taken from Ms. Raducanu at Flushing Meadows but not the last.
The 11th seed becomes the first defending US Open champion to lose in the first round since Germany’s Angelique Kerber in 2017.
“I think I’m just handling my emotions better — that’s it,” said Ms. Cornet. I guess I’m getting old. “I’m getting more mature. I’m 32 so it’s better late than never I guess.” — Reuters