Emma Raducanu wore a blue, Nike “Superior” ball cap pulled all the way down, covering her eyes, hiding her sadness.
Last US Open, Raducanu could not drop a set or a match, advancing into the main draw and winning her first Grand Slam tournament in a British Cinderella run.
This Open she could not win a match.
To cap a struggling 2022 campaign of losses and injuries, Raducanu was eliminated on Tuesday night in her first-round bout against wily veteran Alize Cornet of France, 6-3, 6-3, at the Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Raducanu sounded relieved that she will no longer be called the defending champion.
“Really disappointing, really sad to leave here,” Raducanu said. “It’s probably my favorite tournament. But also, kind of happy because it’s a clean slate. I will drop the rankings. Climb my way back up. Yeah, I mean, in a way the target will be a little bit off my back. Yes, I just have another chance.”
Raducanu looked more like a one-hit wonder than a budding champion. But she’s 19 and dealing with loads of pressure as a social media darling in the UK.
She won 10 straight matches in Flushing in 2021 but has since gone 15-19.
Raducanu tried to downplay the hype ahead of the tournament when she said, “I think you guys [the media] thinks probably more about pressure and ranking than I do. I think defending a title is just something that the press makes up.”
Indeed, a host of British journalists attended after their absence during the two Opens played during the pandemic.
“I think this year definitely helped in some ways,” Raducanu said. “I know I can’t really mourn a loss because I’m only going to last weeks. I’ve gotten a little better at just picking myself up faster. But this one hurts.”
She appeared nervous with 32 unforced errors, often hitting forehands into the net. She was also treated with a new blister which affected her game and Cornet’s drop shot confused the teenager.
Raducanu got a rotten draw. Cornet is a tough foe, having beaten three numbers or former numbers this year.
“This year I’m the upset girl,” said Cornet.
After the Open, Raducanu will drop out of the top 80 as she forfeits all tour points from her stunning 2021 title. Her Flushing showing underscores the depth and parity of the women’s tour.
“Emma is a great person and a great player, so I’m sorry I beat her,” the 32-year-old Cornet said on court. “I was tired at the start of the second series because there were long rallies. Maybe I’m getting older, I can handle it better.”