Emma Raducanu was “really sad” to see her US Open title defence end at the first hurdle but feels she now has a clean slate to move forward in her career.
It was a far cry from the events of 12 months ago as the 19-year-old produced an error-strewn display on a windy night in New York and fell to a 6-3 6-3 defeat against veteran Frenchwoman Alize Cornet.
Raducanu will drop to around 80 in the rankings but, although she would certainly have wanted to go further, there was a certain sense of relief that the moment is over and she can attempt to build more solid foundations for her tennis career.
Raducanu, who did not lose a set in 10 matches last year, said: “Obviously it’s really disappointing, I’m really sad to leave here. It’s probably my favourite tournament.
“But also in a way I’m happy because it’s a clean slate. I’m going to drop down the rankings. Climb my way back up. The target will be off my back slightly.
“I’ve been doing some really good work in the last six weeks especially. I’m just looking forward to putting more of those weeks together consistently, then we’ll see what happens.
“With perspective, actually as a 19-year-old, I’ve had not a bad year. To be top 100, if you told me that a year ago, I’d take it.”
Naomi Osaka had been given the primetime evening slot on Arthur Ashe so Raducanu instead began her title defence on a breezy and, initially at least, sparsely populated Louis Armstrong Stadium.
The fans that were inside gave Raducanu a hearty reception as they welcomed back their most unlikely of champions while Virginia Wade, who watched Raducanu emulate her success last year, was back courtside.
The wind impacted the contest from the start but, despite nine double faults, it was Cornet who ultimately handled it better, using her experience and mixing up play intelligently.
The 32-year-old, playing in a record 63rd consecutive grand slam, was one of the trickiest first-round opponents Raducanu could have had.
Alize Cornet is FIRED UP
The 🇫🇷 takes the first set over Raducanu, 6-3. pic.twitter.com/ZBilJWtdCi
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 31, 2022
Cornet revealed in January she was considering retiring at the end of 2022 but it has been one of the best seasons of her career, with a long-awaited first slam quarter-final in Australia before she ended Iga Swiatek’s 37-match unbeaten run at Wimbledon.
She will now continue until at least the French Open next year and this was just the sort of occasion she relishes.
Raducanu took confidence last year from a good run of results prior to arriving in New York and had the freedom to swing freely but this season has been difficult, with niggling injuries and wins hard to come by. The assuredness that marked her game 12 months ago just was not there.
She held serve only twice throughout the match and lost the last five games from 3-1 up in the second set.
Raducanu admitted she found the conditions tricky, saying: “It was quite windy. It was quite difficult for me, especially to find my ball toss. I think I was hitting quite a lot of serves long. I just struggled to adapt to it really.
“It’s something that both players have to deal with. She just dealt with it better than me today.”
The 19-year-old again struggled with blisters, taking a medical time-out to have her finger taped at the end of the opening set.
“I’ve been getting some blisters throughout the weeks in the States,” she said. “But I think that’s just down to humidity and stuff. I got a new one. But you tape it up and move on it. It’s a blister. Not much you can do about it.”