Tennis·ROUNDUP

Canada's Shapovalov grinds out 5-set win over Switzerland's Huesler at U.S. Open

Canada's Denis Shapovalov, who made a run to the U.S. Open quarter-finals in 2020, claimed a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Marc-Andrea Huesler of Switzerland on Tuesday.

Toronto-born, defending U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu ousted in straight sets

Denis Shapovalov of Canada reacts after winning a set against Marc-Andrea Huesler of Switzerland during the first round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York. (Charles Krupa/The Associated Press)

Denis Shapovalov's first set in the U.S. Open on Tuesday was over in a New York minute.

But it wasn't the 19th-seeded Canadian who took only 26 minutes to post a quick 6-2 victory in men's singles action.

Unheralded Marc-Andrea Huesler of Switzerland jumped all over the favoured Richmond Hill, Ont., athlete, who was trying to improve Canada's first-round record at Flushing Meadows to 5-0 after singles victories on Monday by Leylah Fernandez, Rebecca Marino, Bianca Andreescu and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

But Shapovalov, who made a run to the U.S. Open quarter-finals in 2020, was able to adjust and took the next two sets 6-4, 6-4, but was bounced 6-3 in the fourth by the 26-year-old Huesler to set up a win-or-go-home fifth set.

The 23-year-old Shapovalov seemed to shift into "serious" gear in the fifth and deciding set. By changing the tempo and his sense of urgency Shapovalov won 6-1 to advance to the next round.

"Super tough match and very happy to get the win. It was a battle, he [Huesler] was playing so well from the back," said Shapovalov after the win. "Probably have a celebration in the ice bath after this one."

WATCH | Canada's Shapovalov beats Switzerland's Huesler at U.S. Open:

Shapovalov wins 5-set battle to advance at U.S. Open

5 months ago
Duration 1:32
Richmond Hill, ON., Denis Shapovalov defeated Marc-Andrea Huesler of Switzerland 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to advance to the second round of the U.S. Open.

The match, which was rescheduled several times during the day, took almost three hours to complete.

In women's singles action on Wednesday, Fernandez will play Ludmilla Samsonova of Russia, Marino faces Daria Snigur of the Ukraine and Andreescu meets 15th-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil. On the men's side, Auger-Aliassime will face British player Jack Draper.

Raducanu's defence of 2021 U.S. Open title ends

Maybe it makes sense that Emma Raducanu would try to find something positive from becoming only the third woman in the professional era to lose in the U.S. Open's first round one year after winning the championship.

Maybe, too, it seems like a bit of a stretch.

Still, whether she was trying to convince others or herself, that was how Raducanu, who was born in Toronto, spoke about moving on from bowing out 6-3, 6-3 against Alize Cornet on Tuesday night in her opening match at Flushing Meadows in 2022 following that remarkable run to the trophy as an unseeded 18-year-old qualifier in 2021.

"It is a clean slate. I can just start again. I don't know what my ranking will be. Probably pretty low down," Raducanu said. "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. But, like, I think it would be nice, in a way, to kind of just start over, start fresh."

The other defending champions who went home this quickly at the American Grand Slam tournament were Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won it in 2004, and Angelique Kerber, who won it in 2016 (and lost in the first round in 2017 to Naomi Osaka, who had yet to win any of her four major trophies).

Raducanu said she was disappointed to join that small group.

She also sounded somewhat relieved.

"I mean, in a way," said the British player, who is 15-19 since her triumph in New York, "the target will be off my back slightly."

Raducanu dealt with blisters on her racket-holding right hand, as she had earlier this year, and took a medical timeout after the first set for treatment from a trainer.

She also was simply outplayed by Cornet, a 32-year-old from France who beat past major champions Simona Halep at the Australian Open, Jelena Ostapenko at the French Open and Iga Swiatek at Wimbledon, ending the No. 1-ranked woman's 37-match winning streak at Wimbledon.

"This year I'm kind of the upset girl. I pull out an upset on every Slam," the 40th-ranked Cornet said after disrupting her opponent with a constantly shifting mix of defence, strokes that pushed Raducanu deep behind the baseline and well-placed drop shots. "I was like, 'OK, I did it on the three previous Grand Slams, so why not this one?"'

Now add Raducanu to the list.

"I'm sorry, guys. I know you really like Emma," Cornet told the crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium. "She's a great player and a great person."

A year ago, at age 18, Raducanu arrived at Flushing Meadows ranked 150th to participate in only the second major tournament of her nascent career. She wound up making it through qualifying and winning 10 matches in a row — all in straight sets — en route to becoming the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title, defeating another unseeded teen, Fernandez, in the final.

Raducanu came into the U.S. Open seeded 11th after second-round losses at each of the first three majors of 2022.

"She didn't win a Slam for nothing," Cornet said. "I know how she can play."

Cornet is playing in her record-setting 63rd consecutive Grand Slam event. She's only reached the quarter-finals at one of them — this year's Australian Open.

But she also owns six victories over opponents ranked in the top 20 this season.

"I'm handling my emotions better," said Cornet, who actually was angered when the Armstrong roof was closed during the course of play early in the second set. "I guess I'm getting old. I'm getting mature. ... It's good, because I'm 32. I guess it's better late than never."

Venus Williams eliminated in 1st round

The welcome and support for Venus Williams in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday afternoon were not the same as they were for her sister, Serena, a night earlier. Nor was the result.

Venus, who turned 42 in June, has not made any pronouncements about her future in tennis, unlike her younger sibling, and while she has been successful and influential, too — a seven-time Grand Slam champion; a Black woman in a predominantly white sport — the fanfare and attention are not the same.

Playing in front of thousands of empty blue seats in an arena quite silent at the start, although growing louder later, Venus bowed out in the first round of the U.S. Open for the second consecutive appearance, losing 6-1, 7-6 (5) to Alison Van Uytvanck.

Venus Williams of the U.S. waves to the crowd after losing to Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium in the first round of the U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre in New York. (Kena Betancur AFP via Getty Images)

"She means so much to female tennis. Tennis, in general," Van Uytvanck said. "She's a legend."

This was the 23rd trip to Flushing Meadows for Venus, who made it to the final in 1997 as a teen then won the trophy in 2000 and 2001, and her record 91st time participating in a major tournament.

Venus had never lost in the opening round at the U.S. Open until 2020, then was absent last year.

Asked what keeps her motivated these days, she answered: "Three letters: W-I-N. That's it. Very simple."

Venus was off the tour in singles entirely from August 2021 until less than a month ago and is now 0-4 since her return. Her ranking — which 20 years ago was No. 1 — is 1,504th this week.

"It was definitely the longest time I have been away from tennis and been without a racket in my hand. So it was a completely new experience for me, getting a racket back in my hand and trying to acclimate as quick as possible to be ready for the U.S. Open, which was not easy," she said. "Definitely playing lots of great points, but in the end, it's just rust. There is nothing you can do about that except for, you know, not be rusty at some point."

It was Serena who announced to the world on Aug. 9 that she was getting ready to step away from her playing career, leaving unclear exactly when the end would be, although she hinted it could come at the U.S. Open. So her first-round match Monday fell into the category of a must-see happening, drawing a record crowd of more than 29,000 to the tournament grounds, including more than 23,000 in Ashe — and the atmosphere was uproarious and electric from start to finish of her 6-3, 6-3 victory over Danka Kovinic.

Now Serena, who won six of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles in New York, will move on to a matchup against No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit in Ashe on Wednesday night.

WATCH | Serena Williams advances to 2nd round:

Serena Williams wins opening match at U.S. Open

5 months ago
Duration 1:00
Facing what could have potentially been her last match, Serena Williams was victorious in round one at the U.S. Open defeating Danka Kovinic of Montenegro 6-3, 6-3.

And then she and Venus will join forces in doubles on Thursday, teaming up for the first time anywhere since 2018 this week.

When a reporter wanted to know whether retirement has been on Venus' mind, she replied: "Right now, I'm just focused on the doubles."

So how did that reunion of a pairing that has earned 14 Grand Slam titles in that event come about?

"It was Serena's idea. She's the boss, so I do whatever she tells me to do," Venus said. "We have had some great wins. It would be nice to add some more."

Swiatek takes 1st step toward U.S. Open title 

Swiatek remembers when she was hardly noticed, so she was excited to see a photo of herself on an advertisement in Times Square.

Once little known, it's now bright lights, big city for the No. 1 women's tennis player.

"Just trying to enjoy that because I remember times where it was pretty hard for anybody to see me or hear me," Swiatek said. "Yeah, it just shows how much progress I have done on court, but also off court that I am in such a spot.

Think how much bigger she'll be in New York if she wins the U.S. Open.

The top seed took the first step Tuesday, beating Jasmine Paolini 6-3, 6-0 in a little more than an hour.

Swiatek knows it won't be easy to regain the form that led her to 37 straight victories this year. But all it takes is seven to win another Grand Slam title.

Swiatek is just 5-4 since her winning streak that included a second French Open crown. But she looked sharp in rolling through the second set in front of red-dressed Polish fans inside Louis Armstrong Stadium.

"For sure in first set at the beginning, you know, I played a pretty solid game, but I needed to take it up to another level," Swiatek said. "I did that at the end and in second set, so I'm pretty proud of that."

Swiatek said she watched only two games of Williams' victory Monday, with an early start ahead of her. She is trying to become the first player to win seven or more titles in a season since Serena did it in 2014.

Swiatek may be toughest to beat on the red clay of Roland Garros, but she's already shown she can handle the hard courts, winning titles at Indian Wells and Miami earlier this year.

"She's still No. 1 in the world and still going to compete really well and going to be tough to beat no matter what," said Jessica Pegula, who lost to Swiatek in the French Open quarter-finals.

Nadal wins in 1st U.S. Open match since 2019

Rafael Nadal's first U.S. Open match since 2019 ended with a four-set victory over a player making his Grand Slam debut.

Nadal improved to 20-0 in matches at major tournaments this season by beating Australian wild-card entry Rinky Hijikata 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 across more than three hours in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday night.

Nadal did not show any serious lingering effects from the torn abdominal muscle that forced the 22-time Grand Slam champion to pull out of Wimbledon before he was supposed to play in the semifinals. That does not go down on his record as a loss, because he did not take the court for the match.

Nadal has won the U.S. Open four times, including three years ago. He then did not return in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic or last year because of an injured left foot.

Osaka defeated in big-hitting matchup

Four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka lost in the first round of a second consecutive major tournament.

Danielle Collins, an American seeded 19th, beat Osaka 7-6 (5), 6-3 in a big-hitting matchup at the U.S. Open.

Collins reached her first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in January and showed that same sort of hard-court form in her victory over former No. 1 Osaka that ended after midnight as Tuesday turned to Wednesday.

Entering this contest, Osaka held a 3-0 career edge against Collins, winning every set they had played.

Osaka won the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2020, and the Australian Open in 2019 and 2021.

This season, she lost in the third round in Australia, the first round at the French Open, then sat out Wimbledon.

Osaka is now ranked 44th, which means she could have been drawn to face anyone in the first round.

Wimbledon women's champion ousted

The Wimbledon women's champion is out in the first round of the U.S. Open.

Elena Rybakina lost 6-4, 6-4 to Clara Burel of France, who came through qualifying to earn a spot in the main draw.

Rybakina was seeded only 25th, with her victory in the most recent Grand Slam not boosting her in the rankings because no points were awarded at the tournament this year. The men's and women's tours took that step after the All England Club barred Russian and Belarussian players from competing because of the war against Ukraine.

Rybakina, who was born in Russia but represents Kazakhstan, said before this tournament she thought that was unfair, adding she didn't even feel like a Wimbledon champion.

Carlos Alcaraz moved into the second round when his opponent was forced to stop because of injury in the third set. The No. 3 seed led Sebastian Baez 7-5, 7-5, 2-0 when the Argentine player motioned he couldn't continue because of leg pain or cramps.

Alcaraz's U.S. Open ended last year in a similar manner. He reached the quarter-finals at 18, the youngest man to get that far in New York in the professional era, before stopping in the second set of his loss to Auger-Aliassime because of an upper right leg injury.

With files from The Canadian Press, CBC Sports

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