Emma Raducanu wore a blue, Nike “Supreme’’ ballcap pulled all the way down, covering her eyes, hiding her sadness.
Last U.S. Open, Raducanu couldn’t lose 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 couldn’t win a match.
To cap a struggling 2022 campaign of losses and injuries, Raducanu was ousted Tuesday night in her first-round bout against the crafty veteran Alize Cornet of France, 6-3, 6-3, at Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Raducanu sounded relieved she’ll no longer be referred to as defending champion.
“Really disappointing, really sad to leave here,’’ Raducanu said. “It’s probably my favorite tournament. But also, in a way happy because it’s a clean slate. I’m going to drop down the rankings. Climb my way back up. Yeah, I mean, in a way the target will be off my back slightly. Yeah, I just have another chance.”
Raducanu looked more like a one-hit wonder than a budding champion. But she’s 19 years old and dealing with mounds of pressure as a social-media darling in Britain.
She won 10 straight matches in Flushing in 2021 but has gone 15-19 since.
Raducanu tried to downplay the hype before the tournament when she said, “I think you guys [the media] are thinking probably more about pressure and ranking than me. I think defending a title is just something that the press makes up.”
Indeed, a gaggle of British journalists were on hand after their absence during the two Opens played during the pandemic.
“I think this year has definitely helped in a way,’’ Raducanu said. “I know I can’t really mourn over a loss because I’ll just take weeks. I kind of got better at just picking myself back up quicker. But this one hurts.’’
She seemed nervous with 32 unforced errors, often smacking forehands into the net. She also was treated with a new blister that affected her play and Cornet’s drop shot befuddled the teenager.
Raducanu received a rotten draw. Cornet is a tough foe, having beaten three No. 1’s or former No. 1’s this year.
“This year I’m the upset girl,” said Cornet.
After the Open, Raducanu will fall out of the top 80 when she loses all the 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 the court. “I was tired at the start of the second set because there were long rallies. Maybe I’m getting older, I can handle it better.”