Cornet ends Raducanu’s US Open title protection in first spherical

NEW YORK – Ahead of the US Open, Emma Raducanu was asked by reporters if she felt pressure to defend her title.

“I think you guys probably think more about pressure and rankings than I do,” replied the 19-year-old from England emphatically. “I think defending the title is just something the press makes. I just went through it one at a time.

“Every player is very capable in this draw. I just focus on what I’m doing, my own trajectory. Like I said last year, I’m just going to do things my way.”

It worked beautifully in 2021, when she won all 10 of her matches (including qualifiers) and became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open Era. That’s just the second major.

But since then, he’s been more modest 15-19. That includes Tuesday night’s 6-3, 6-3 loss to Alizé Cornet at the Louis Armstrong Stadium. His ranking – which jumped into the top 10 in July – will soon drop outside the top 75. If Harriet Dart wins the second round match against Dalma Galfi – Raducanu will be England’s No.2.

The checks are rigorous, but this is a small sample size; Raducanu did not play his first WTA main draw until less than 15 months ago. At that time he was a wildcard on grass at Nottingham and ranked No.366 in the world. The last 16 at Wimbledon changed everything. She beat two Top 50 players – Sorana Cirstea and Marketa Vondrousova – and almost cut her ranking in half. The US Open took him to the Top 25.

This year, Raducanu lost two of three games in Washington, DC and Toronto but recently bounced back in Cincinnati, beating Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka respectively. And while she eventually fell to Jessica Pegula, a Top 10 player, there are signs that – encouraged by new coach Dmitry Tursunov – she is swinging freely again.

Raducanu’s serve was broken three times in the first set, the last time in a crippling double fault. It was 3-all in the second second when Cornet hit the winner of a beautiful half-volley en route to the sixth break of Raducanu’s serve.

The seventh break was enough to get Cornet over the line.

“My game on the net is pretty good,” Cornet said in an on-court interview. “I did a lot of variations – I think that’s what worked tonight.”

The 32-year-old from France has a history of several on-time wins – against big opponents. Cornet, ranked No.37, has made it five Top-20 wins this season, including a loss to No.1 Iga Swiatek at Wimbledon and an impressive win over Simona Halep in Melbourne.

“I think I handle my emotions better,” says Cornet. “I think I’m getting older – more mature. It shows in my results. I’m 32 – better late than never.”

She appeared in the 63rd consecutive Grand Slam main draw, the longest in Open Era history. Cornet came from last week’s semifinal appearance in Cleveland – and scored his best big effort in January with a quarter-final appearance at the Australian Open.

She will play against Katerina Siniakova on Thursday.

“I saw that I had beaten the Grand Slam champion at every Slam this year,” Cornet said. “I think it’s crazy. It’s kind of cool. The players I admire, who I’ve followed for a long time, knowing that I’m part of this world, that I can beat them in the Slams, I don’t know, sometimes I I still feel like a child.”

A few weeks ago in Toronto, Raducanu surprised reporters by saying he was looking forward to a “clean slate” heading into fall.

“It will be nice once the US Open is over.” Raducanu said, “and I can continue from there. Restart.”

Wish granted. Starts at.

“On the one hand the target would be a bit off my back,” said Raducanu after the loss. “I just had another chance to go back there. I’ve done some really good work in the last six weeks in particular. Just looking forward to putting more of those weeks together on a consistent basis then we’ll see what happens.”

“I think I’ll be playing around the 250s. I think the rest of the year is that. We’ll see what’s on the calendar.”

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