US Open (tennis)
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Emma Raducanu lost her first round match against Alize Cornet. Photo: AFP

US Open: Raducanu, Venus Williams, Osaka all out in 1st round chaos

  • Defending champion goes down in straight sets 6-3, 6-3 at Flushing Meadow as she battled blisters and took a medical timeout after the first set
  • Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins defeated two-time champion Naomi Osaka in the first round

Emma Raducanu’s defense of her surprising 2021 US Open championship ended with 6-3, 6-3 loss to Alizé Cornet in the first round.

Raducanu is only the third woman to lose her opening match in New York a year after winning the title. The others were 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber.

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 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.

Raducanu was just one casualty in a crushing opening round of the this year’s US Open.

Danielle Collins shakes hands with Naomi Osaka after their match at the 2022 US Open. Photo: USA TODAY Sports

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 are not 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 (5) to Alison Van Uytvanck.

“She means so much to female tennis. Tennis, in general,” Van Uytvanck said. “She’s a legend.”

This was the 23rd trip to Flushing Meadows for Venus, who made it to the final in 1997 as a teen then won the trophy in 2000 and 2001, and her record 91st time taking part in a major tournament.

Venus had never lost in the opening round at the US Open until 2020, then was absent last year.

Asked what keeps her motivated these days, she answered: “Three letters: W-I-N. That’s it. Very simple.”

At night, Emma Raducanu became only the third defending US Open champion to lose in the first round, eliminated by Alizé Cornet 6-3, 6-3. And yet another past champ bowed out in straight sets when Naomi Osaka, who won two of her four grand slam titles in New York, was eliminated by Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins 7-6 (5), 6-3 in a match that ended after midnight.

US Open defending champion Emma Raducanu goes down in straight to Alize Cornet at Flushing Meadow as she battled blisters and took a medical timeout after the first set. Photo: AFP

Osaka, a former No 1, also lost in the first round of the French Open this year and has slid to 44th in the rankings. She had been 3-0 head-to-head against Collins, but this fun-to-watch, hard-hitting match-up went the other way.

“When you lose to somebody three times,” said the 19th-seeded Collins, who has struggled with injuries this season, “you have nothing to lose, so I tried to go for it and hope for the best.”

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 No 1 Iga Swiatek at Wimbledon.

“Obviously really disappointing. Really sad to leave here. It’s probably my favourite tournament. But also, I mean, in a way, (I’m) happy, because it’s a clean slate,” Raducanu said. “I’m going to drop down the rankings. (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 21-year-old 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.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates his win over Australia’s Rinky Hijikata in the opening round of the US Open. Photo: AFP

Venus was off the tour in singles entirely from August 2021 until less than a month ago and is now 0-4 since her return. Her ranking – which 20 years ago was No 1 – is 1,504th this week.

“It was definitely the longest time I have been away from tennis and been without a racket in my hand. So it was a completely new experience for me, getting a racket back in my hand and trying to acclimate as quick as possible to be ready for the US Open, which was not easy,” she said. “Definitely playing lots of great points, but in the end, it’s just rust. There is nothing you can do about that except for, you know, not be rusty at some point.”

It was Serena who announced to the world on August 9 that she was getting ready to step away from her playing career, leaving unclear exactly when the end would be, although she hinted it could come at the US Open. So her first-round match Monday fell into the category of a must-see happening, drawing a record crowd of more than 29,000 to the tournament grounds, including more than 23,000 in Ashe – and the atmosphere was uproarious and electric from start to finish of her 6-3, 6-3 victory over Danka Kovinic.

Now Serena, who won six of her 23 grand slam singles titles in New York, will move on to a match-up against No 2 seed Anett Kontaveit in Ashe on Wednesday night.

And then she and Venus will join forces in doubles on Thursday, teaming up for the first time anywhere since 2018 this week.

In other action on a humid and windy Day 2 at the hard-court tournament, women’s winners included 2017 champion Sloane Stephens, No 1 Iga Swiatek, No 6 Aryna Sabalenka, No 8 Jessica Pegula, No 9 Garbiñe Muguruza, No 13 Belinda Bencic – whose opponent, Andrea Petkovic, said she is retiring from pro tennis – and No 22 Karolina Pliskova, the 2016 runner-up in New York.

Men who advanced included 2014 champion Marin Cilic, No 3 Carlos Alcaraz, No 7 Cam Norrie, No 8 Hubert Hurkacz, No 9 Andrey Rublev, No 11 Jannik Sinner, No 15 Marin Cilic, No 17 Grigor Dimitrov and No 28 Holger Rune, who meets John Isner next.