US Open

Raducanu’s US Open title defense ends in first round; Osaka out

Reuters
Raducanu’s US Open title defense ends in first round; Osaka out

UPSETS. The US Open sees back-to-back stunners with the ouster of Naomi Osaka (left) and Emma Raducanu.

REUTERS

With the early exit of Emma Raducanu and Naomi Osaka, the US Open bids farewell to its past two champions

NEW YORK, USA – Emma Raducanu’s US Open title defense ended at the first hurdle on Tuesday, August 30, while Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and twice US Open winner Naomi Osaka were also ousted in the opening round.

British teenager Raducanu made a dream run to the title as a qualifier last year but her return to court at Flushing Meadows was less memorable as she fell 6-3, 6-3 to Frenchwoman Alize Cornet.

“Obviously really disappointing. Really sad to leave here. It’s probably my favorite tournament,” Raducanu said. “In a way I’m happy because it’s a clean slate… The target will be off my back slightly.”

Osaka fell 7-6(5), 6-3 to Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins, who fought back from a break down in both sets to reach the second round.

The tournament winner in 2018 and 2020, Osaka’s exit followed Raducanu’s departure hours earlier as Flushing Meadows bid a first-round farewell to its past two champions.

The 24-year-old said she was happy to have played through the match without her back flaring up and only began serving on Sunday.

“Honestly, I just wanted to play without my back being in pain because it’s kind of been bad for the entire hard court season since Toronto,” Osaka told reporters. “I didn’t serve until two days ago so I was really happy with how it went.

“Overall I wouldn’t say that I played well … I felt like I was on my back foot a lot,” she added. “Everyone deals with injuries. For me, it’s been more prominent this year, but it’s something that I can learn (from).

“I learned a lot more about my body, I learned what’s weak, what I can do to prevent it. I would say the sport is definitely very physical, but it’s kind of my job to stay on top of it.”

Rybakina also became the latest top seed to exit the tournament after suffering a shock 6-4 ,6-4 defeat by French qualifier Clara Burel.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek cruised into the second round after crushing Italy’s Jasmine Paolini 6-3, 6-0, but two-time US Open winner Venus Williams bowed out after losing 6-1, 7-6 to Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium.

‘Start over, start fresh’

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, 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 Raducanu defending her one and only title but a massive 2,040 of her 2,756 ranking points, and with those gone, the world No. 11 will drop out of the top 70 and back having to qualify for some events or depend on wildcards.

But the loss, said Raducanu, has also brought freedom and a clean slate that will allow her to reconstruct her game and career without unrealistic expectations.

“I can just start again,” said Raducanu. “I don’t know what my ranking will be. Probably pretty low down.”

“I think it would be nice in a way to kind of just start over, start fresh,” she added. “I think any player would be happy to win a tournament. I think it makes a massive difference no matter what the level is.”

Both Osaka and Colins came to New York on the comeback trail after injury-interrupted campaigns.

Collins missed the entire North American hardcourt swing withdrawing from San Jose, Toronto and Cincinnati because of a neck injury while Osaka sat out the entire grasscourt season before falling in the opening round of the Toronto and Cincinnati events.

“I lost to Naomi three times before, so going into the match I had a lot of information on what I kind of needed to do better, areas I could improve,” said Collins. “I felt happy just to be out here playing.

“I think when you face as many challenges as I’ve faced with some of the things I’ve been dealing with, you’re kind of more grateful to kind of be out here.” – Rappler.com

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