Raducanu falls to straight-sets loss on return to New York
Briton could now plunge to world No 80 after defeat
Lightning failed to strike twice in New York as Emma Raducanu lost in the first round of the US Open: a straight-sets victim of veteran Frenchwoman Alize Cornet.
What a difference a year makes. If Raducanu’s 2021 triumph was a hothouse flower, seeded in the obscurity of the qualifying event and nurtured gently into bloom, then her return to her favourite tournament was brutally short and unforgiving.
If only Raducanu could have started with a nice, nerve-settling opener against someone ranked outside the world’s top 250 – just as she did last year. This time around, she came up against one of the trickiest customers on the tour. At 32, Cornet is an obdurate character who was playing a record 63rd consecutive grand slam.
The result was a lesson in courtcraft and sheer bloody-mindedness. Raducanu’s 6-3, 6-3 defeat occupied a brisk 1hr 42min and found her struggling to establish any kind of rhythm against a hugely disruptive opponent.
The queen of New York has thus reverted to commoner status, with a ranking that will plunge some 70-odd places to around No 80 in the world. She still has her 2.5m Instagram followers, and her ten endorsement contracts. But she no longer has a seat at the table as one of the leading players on the tour.
If 2021’s cards fell perfectly for Raducanu, then the sporting gods took their revenge here this week. Her seeding might have saved her from playing 31 other notable opponents in the first round. But once you looked beyond that group, Cornet was about the most awkward option imaginable.
Ranked No37, Cornet has been collecting notable scalps all season. Indeed, Raducanu is the fifth major champion that she has beaten at the slams this year, after Garbine Muguruza, Simona Halep, Jelena Ostapenko and world No1 Iga Swiatek.
The way Cornet has been playing, it seems surprising that she is talking about retiring next summer. Her primary style is to make a lot of balls, but not in a mechanical sort of way. Instead, she varies her trajectory and her angle cannily, mixing in net-rushes and drop-shots at opportune moments.
Like a lot of the French players, she reads the game instinctively, and one of the trademarks of Tuesday’s performance was the little chipped lob she kept using to turn defence into attack.
It hardly helped Raducanu that there was a powerful, gusty wind blowing from one end of the court. It kept these light Wilson balls dancing in the breeze, and prevented her from swinging with the freedom she would have liked. Cornet’s painterly approach was more suited to these rough conditions, and she constructed rallies with great craft.
The one slick part of Raducanu’s game was her return of serve, which helped her start the match by breaking Cornet at the first time of asking. Unfortunately, Raducanu’s own serve proved erratic, thanks to a ball toss that was badly disrupted by the wind.
Cornet broke straight back and always felt like she had the match in her pocket. She loves the big occasion, and tends to raise her game when she is in the spotlight. How many players have beaten Serena Williams three times in a row, as Cornet did in 2014?
Admittedly, the fans on Louis Armstrong Stadium were against Cornet, cheering the regular double-faults that were the only weakness in her game. But she enjoyed the attention and occasionally tried to coax them onto her side with an encouraging hand gesture.
“The atmosphere was great,” said Cornet after the match. “I know people were rooting for Emma a lot, but I was really trying to put on a show and take them with me. It kind of worked at the end.”
Raducanu came into the interview room wearing a cap low down over her eyes. She was clearly gutted to have gone out so early.
At the same time, though, this was not the sort of match that you leave with many regrets. Cornet was too good, too experienced and too mentally tough for her. After a season that has delivered only 13 wins from 29 matches, Raducanu’s novelty value has been firmly extinguished.
“It’s obviously really disappointing, really sad to leave here,” said Raducanu.
“It's probably my favourite tournament. But also, I mean, in a way happy because it's a clean slate. I'm going to drop down the rankings. Climb my way back up. In a way the target will be off my back slightly.”
Emma Raducanu crashes out of the US Open, as it happened
Thanks for joining us
It wasn't to be for Raducanu today. The emotions tonight are a complete contrast to the scenes 12 months ago when she won the title in such incredible fashion.
A lot of reflection and clear thinking is required in the coming weeks for Raducanu. Relive the match below and join us again tomorrow for more coverage from the US Open.
Rankings woe for Raducanu
As a result of this defeat, Raducanu will lose the 2040 points she earned last year and is poised to drop to around 80 in the world.
And to compound matters, she could lose her status as British No 1 if Harriet Dart wins her second round match.
More from Cornet
I think I am handling my emotions better, I am just getting old. I am really happy because it shows in my results. I am 32 and it is better late than never.
It was very important to have my best friends and boyfriend by my side - I couldn't do it without you."
I'm sorry guys I know you really like Emma - she's a great player and a great person and I am sorry I beat her tonight. I was getting tired from the second set but I hung in there.
You know I like the drop shots. I don't do it as well as Ons Jabeur but I think my game at the net was pretty good too. I think it was a bit of everything, I did a bit of variation and that is what worked tonight.
Tim Henman reacts
She went out there and gave it her best shot. Cornet was just a little bit better on the night.
Emma needs to go away and reset. Her ranking will be a little more realistic now.
Disappointment for Raducanu
The defence of her title ends in the first round. Another setback in an already tough year for the young Briton.
Raducanu 3-6, 3-6 Cornet* (*denotes next server)
Raducanu goes for a big forehand but misses, 15-15. That was her 30th unforced error of the match.
Phenomenal drop shot again by Cornet, 15-30. She's hit that shot brilliantly tonight.
Good, attack-minded point by Raducanu and she finishes with a drive forehand winner, 30-30.
Amazing defence by Cornet and Raducanu goes long with a forehand, 30-40. Match point.
Raducanu backhand volley wide. GAME SET MATCH CORNET.
Raducanu* 3-6, 3-5 Cornet (*denotes next server)
Raducanu digs in and pushes Cornet to 30-30. Important point coming up. Bad error by Raducanu as she puts a backhand long, 40-30.
Another backhand error by Raducanu and Cornet is a game away from victory.
Raducanu 3-6, 3-4 Cornet* (*denotes next server)
Problems for Raducanu now as Cornet hits a lovely drop volley for a winner, 0-30.
Short return by Cornet but Raducanu nets a forehand, 15-40. Two break points. Raducanu backhand into the net.
Cornet breaks again and is two games away from victory.
Raducanu* 3-6, 3-3 Cornet (*denotes next server)
We've had four breaks of serve in five games in this set. Moments of quality mixed with error-strewn tennis.
But after the struggles of the previous game, Cornet holds to love for the first time in the match.
We're entering a critical stage of the match now.
Raducanu 3-6, 3-2 Cornet* (*denotes next server)
Cornet shanks a forehand wide, 30-15. The frustration is building for the Frenchwoman.
Raducanu backhand into the net, 30-30. Vital that she consolidates this break.
Cornet backhand winner, 30-40. Break point. Unreal drop shot on the run by Cornet and she breaks back.
Two incredible shots there. She sensed the moment and took advantage.
Raducanu* 3-6, 3-1 Cornet (*denotes next server)
Another double fault by Cornet to start this service game. An 8th double fault of the match makes it 15-30. A third double fault of the game and Raducanu has two break points.
Cornet saves the first with a brilliant drop shot. But not the second as Raducanu goes on the attack with her backhand and forces Cornet into an error.
Raducanu is on a roll now.
Raducanu 3-6, 2-1 Cornet* (*denotes next server)
Raducanu has come alive here. She rattled through a couple of games and now leads in the set. The roof closing means the windy conditions have been taken out of the equation.
Raducanu* 3-6, 1-1 Cornet (*denotes next server)
Cornet ace to open the game. Raducanu gets a look at a Cornet second serve and blasts a forehand winner down the line, 15-15.
Raducanu forehand into the net, 30-30. Cornet double fault, break point Raducanu.
Scrappy game by Cornet and Raducanu does break back when the Frenchwoman nets another backhand.
It's raining in New York and the roof has been closed without play being interrupted.
Second Set: Raducanu 3-6, 1-0 Cornet* (*denotes next server)
Lovely start to the set by Cornet as she hits a deft drop shot winner, 0-15. Raducanu backhand into the net, 15-30.
Trademark Raducanu as she drills a backhand winner down the line, 30-30. But she follows it up with a double fault and it facing a break point.
She responds with an inside-out forehand winner, deuce. Raducanu backhand into the net, another Cornet break point.
Cornet volley winner, Raducanu hardly moved for the ball. The Briton is in big trouble right now.
Medical timeout for Raducanu
Raducanu calls for the tournament trainer to get treatment on her blisters.
It has been an issue all year for the teenager.
Raducanu* 3-6 Cornet (*denotes next server)
Raducanu drop shot winner, 0-15. Deep Raducanu return, Cornet nets a backhand and in frustration flings her racket onto the court.
Cornet responds by winning the next two points, 30-30. Big point coming up now.
Phenomenal rally. Both players go toe-to-toe but Cornet stands her ground and whips a lovely forehand down the line for a winner. Set point.
Raducanu forehand into the net and Cornet takes the set.
Raducanu 3-5 Cornet* (*denotes next server)
Windy conditions on Louis Armstong and Cornet is frustrated as a sliced backhand drifts long, 30-15.
Raducanu forehand into the net, 40-30. Got her again!! Unbelievable reactions by Cornet to lift a third lob over Raducanu's head for a winner. Deuce.
Raducanu backhand long, break point Cornet. Double fault Raducanu. Cornet breaks and will serve for the set.
Raducanu* 3-4 Cornet (*denotes next server)
Raducanu is finding it difficult to hit through Cornet at the moment and she is making a lot of errors. Up to 14 unforced errors when she misses with a backhand, 0-30.
Better from Raducanu as we see another forehand winner down the line, 15-30. Cornet double fault, 30-30.
Raducanu backhand into the net, 40-30. Sensational volley by Raducanu, deuce. She hit that like peak Stefan Edberg.
Double fault Cornet, her fifth of the match. Break point Raducanu. She has to make the moment of this opportunity.
And she does! Cornet shanks a forehand wide and Raducanu gets the crucial break back.
Raducanu 2-4 Cornet* (*denotes next server)
Another lengthy exchange between the two players and Raducanu misses with a forehand, 0-15. Cornet catches out Raducanu with another delicate lob, 0-30. Great anticipation.
Cornet catches the baseline with a deep shot and Raducanu misses with a forehand, three break points.
Raducanu saves the first. Then the second when Cornet puts a backhand return long. But not the third as a backhand flies long.
Raducanu* 2-3 Cornet (*denotes next server)
Cornet is not scared to move forward. Anything short and mid court, she is coming in behind it and being aggressive.
Cornet holds with more quick reactions to hit a half volley lob over Raducanu.
Raducanu 2-2 Cornet* (*denotes next server)
Excellent backhand up the line by Cornet flies past Raducanu for a winner, 0-15. Rally of the match so far, a terrific exchange at the net, such quick reflexes but Raducanu keeps her cool to put away a backhand volley winner, 30-15.
Big time tennis by Cornet as she dominates from the baseline, gets Raducanu on the run and finishes with an overhead winner, 30-30.
HUGE Raducanu forehand winner down the line, she unloaded on the ball there, 40-30.
Cornet nets a return and Raducanu holds.
Raducanu* 1-2 Cornet (*denotes next server)
Great hustle by Raducanu to reach a Cornet drop shot, the Frenchwoman has an open court but nets a backhand, 0-15.
Third double fault of the match by Cornet, 30-30. Raducanu frames a backhand wide, 40-30.
Another Cornet drop shot, Raducanu gets there but can't get her attempted drop shot over the net.
Raducanu 1-1 Cornet* (*denotes next server)
Back to back forehand errors by Raducanu. She gets back on track with her first ace of the match, 15-30.
But she goes for too much with a backhand and it's two break points. Raducanu backhand into the tramlines and she donates the break back.
First Set: Emma Raducanu* 1-0 Alize Cornet (*denotes next server)
Nice and aggressive start by Raducanu. First double fault of the match by Cornet, 15-30. Second double fault by Cornet, 30-40. Break point.
Saved by Cornet with an overhead winner. Vintage Raducanu as she rips a backhand down the line.
Raducanu gets a look at a second serve, powers a forehand into the corner and Cornet's response is long, break point.
Another aggressive return by Raducanu and Cornet misses again. Excellent start by the Brit.
Here we go!
The stadium is nowhere near full but Raducanu still gets a warm reception.
The Briton gives a wave to the crowd and has a big smile on her face.
Raducanu wins the toss and opts to receive first. Interesting call. Mind games?
British tennis royalty
My colleague Molly McElwee is in position on Louis Armstrong Stadium and tells me Virginia Wade is sat in the second row and taking selfies with her friends.
First sighting of Raducanu
The camera captures Raducanu in the warm up area, getting ready with her coach Dmitry Tursunov.
Her right hand is heavily taped up. Blisters have been an issue all year. We'll see if it impacts her again tonight.
Five down, one to go
From a British perspective, it has been a very positive start to the tournament.
On Monday, Andy Murray, Harriet Dart and Jack Draper all won their matches and today Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans made it five players through to the second round.
This is already the joint best US Open since 1981 in terms of Britons through to round two.
Will Raducanu make it six?
This time last year. Can she do it again?
It's been a long day on Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Italy's Jannik Sinner needed five sets to beat Daniel Altmaier 6-7, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. It means Raducanu won't be on court for another 20 minutes or so as the day session crowd clears and those with night session tickets enter.
Will Alize Cornet claim another major scalp?
Martina Navratilova backs Emma Raducanu
She played well in Cincinnati. It was massive because, if she hadn't won the US Open and she has the year that she's had, she'd be pretty happy about it and the British press would be happy about it.
She's up and coming and rising in the ranks. But, because she won the US Open the expectations went so high, and we saw how well she can play - it's not even about the results, it's why aren't you playing anywhere near the level you played at the US Open?
She couldn't answer it but she started showing those signs in Cincinnati so she'll be very relieved I think with how she played and let's see how deep she can go.
Once you win a big one you're a scalp for everybody to beat, people play better, a little extra oomph in their step and you're looking over your shoulder. And then also they learn how to play you.
It was amazing what she did. She's paying the price for it but I hope she can put it together because she's definitely a huge talent.
A champion's towel...
Hello and welcome to coverage of a big night for Emma Raducanu as she begins the defence of her US Open title.
Almost a year ago, Raducanu shocked the world when she won her first grand slam title, in just her second major event, without dropping a set as a qualifier.
"Twelve months, it's obviously a bit of a long time, but, coming back here, it honestly feels like I've never left," she said. "Coming to the city, it's just gone so quickly. So much has happened but I feel like I was here yesterday or last week. It's a really strange feeling. I've obviously learned a lot but time flies."
The British No 1 starts her campaign with a difficult assignment in the shape of Frenchwoman Alize Cornet. Cornet has a number of big scalps to her name including most recently a win at Wimbledon over world No 1 Iga Swiatek.
But Raducanu comes into the match on the back of impressive wins over Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka and after tricky debut season on the WTA Tour, the 19-year-old believes she is edging towards her best level again.
"There's been tournaments for sure where I wasn't doing that but I'm very pleased with Cincinnati, how I was able to, and I think to see the rewards that brings, playing Serena and Vika back to back and having a pretty tight match against Jessie, my level was definitely showing some positive signs," she said.
"Results and wins, they don't come by often but obviously when they do you have to really cherish it and take the positive energy from it and I do take the confidence of knowing I have the ability to produce that sort of level.
"To play Vika and Serena, even if it's not necessarily all about tennis, a massive part is mental, just to stay focused, not be intimidated by who you're playing on the other side of the net.
"To have that belief which I did have in Cincinnati, I think I'm just going to carry that through and try and keep that up here."