NEW YORK: Emma Raducanu became only the third defending US Open champion to lose in the first round, eliminated by Alize Cornet 3-6, 3-6.
Raducanu, who was 18 and ranked 150th when she won the title as a qualifier a year ago, was bothered by hand blisters – she took a medical timeout for treatment after the first set – and was outplayed by Cornet, a 32-year-old from France who also upset World No.1 Iga Swiatek at Wimbledon.
“Obviously, it is really disappointing. It is really sad to leave here. It is probably my favourite tournament. But also, I mean, in a way, [I am] happy because it is a clean slate,” Raducanu said. “I am going to drop down the rankings. [I will] climb my way back up.”
Also playing under the lights was 22-time major champion Rafael Nadal, who returned to the US Open for the first time since 2019 and beat Rinky Hijikata 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. Nadal did not show any serious lingering issues with the torn abdominal muscle that forced him out of Wimbledon in July.
The welcome and support for Venus Williams at the Arthur Ashe Stadium were not the same as they were for her sister, Serena, a night earlier. Nor was the result. Playing in front of thousands of empty blue seats in an arena quite silent at the start, although growing louder later, Venus bowed out in the first round for the second consecutive appearance, losing 1-6, 6-7(5) to Alison Van Uytvanck.
Van Uytvanck will next meet Clara Burel, who eliminated Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina 6-4, 6-4. After missing the entire North American hard court season, Danielle Collins showed no signs of rust battling past twice US Open champion Naomi Osaka 7-6(5), 6-3 and into the second round.
The 19th-seeded American came out determined, taking a tense opening set in a tie-break 7-5. In the second set, Osaka would grab the early break and a 2-1 lead but Collins would immediately break back and then again at 5-3. She held serve to clinch victory.
RESULTS (SELECTED): First round: Women: A Cornet bt E Raducanu 6-3, 6-3; D Collins bt N Osaka 7-6(5), 6-3; C Burel bt E Rybakina 6-4, 6-4; Alison Van Uytvanck bt V Williams 6-1, 7-6 (5). Men: R Nadal bt R Hijikata 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3; A Rublev bt L Dere 7-6 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4; M Kecmanovic bt L Tien 3-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3