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US Open wrap: Reigning champion Emma Raducanu crashes out in first round chaos

Maybe Emma Raducanu was simply trying to lower others’ expectations or make things easier on herself when she scoffed at the idea that there might be any pressure on her as she returned to the site of her remarkable out-of-nowhere run to the 2021 US Open championship.

Sure sounded so when she declared, shortly before the start of play at Flushing Meadows: “I think defending a title is just something that the press makes up.”

Either way, her follow-up trip to New York did not last long. Raducanu became just the third woman in the professional era to lose in the first round one year after winning the US Open title, bowing out 6-3, 6-3 against Alizé Cornet on Tuesday night.

“I’m sorry, guys. I know you really like Emma,” Cornet told the crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium. “She’s a great player and a great person.”

The other defending champions — if you believe in such constructs — who went home this quickly at the American Grand Slam tournament were Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won it in 2004, and Angelique Kerber, who won it in 2016 (and lost in the first round in 2017 to Naomi Osaka, who had yet to win any of her four major trophies).

Raducanu dealt with blisters on her racket-holding right hand and took a medical timeout after the first set for treatment from a trainer.

She also was simply outplayed by Cornet, a 32-year-old from France who ended number 1-ranked Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak at Wimbledon.

A year ago, at age 18, Raducanu arrived at Flushing Meadows ranked 150th to participate in only the second major tournament of her nascent career.

She wound up making it through qualifying and winning 10 matches in a row en route to becoming the first qualifier to win a grand slam title, defeating another unseeded teen, Leylah Fernandez, in the final.

Since then, Raducanu has gone 15-19, including second-round losses at each of the first three majors of 2022.

She was seeded 11th at the US Open.

Meanwhile, the welcome and support for Venus Williams in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday afternoon were not the same as they were for her sister, Serena, a night earlier. Nor was the result.

Venus, who turned 42 in June, has not made any pronouncements about her future in tennis, unlike her younger sibling, and while she has been successful and influential, too — a seven-time grand slam champion; a Black woman in a predominantly white sport — the fanfare and attention has not been the same.

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 of the US Open for the second consecutive appearance, losing 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) to Alison Van Uytvanck.

Reigning Wimbledon women’s champion Elena Rybakina also fell at the first hurdle, going down 6-4, 6-4 to French qualifier Clara Burel.

In other results, Carlos Alcaraz moved into the second round when his opponent was forced to stop because of injury in the third set.

Carlos Alcaraz’s match ended early when his heat-affected oppponent Sebastian Baez (left) could not continue. (AP: Seth Wenig)

On a hot day in New York, where the temperatures got to 28 degrees and the humidity was above 70 per cent, a lot of players were physically affected and trainers were called to a number of courts.

The number three seed led Sebastian Baez 7-5, 7-5, 2-0 when the Argentine player motioned he couldn’t continue because of leg pain or cramps.

Alcaraz’s US Open ended last year in a similar manner. He reached the quarterfinals at 18, the youngest man to get that far in New York in the professional era, before stopping in the second set of his loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime because of an upper right leg injury.

Alcaraz followed that by winning four ATP titles this year.

Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic retired against American Jenson Brooksby while trailing 6-2, 6-0, 3-0.

And Lucia Bronzetti could not continue when her legs cramped painfully, forcing the Italian player to collapse to the court. She was eventually assisted off the court, retiring from her match against American Lauren Davis, trailing 6-4, 6-7 (7-3), 4-5.

AP

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