World No 1 Simona Halep has become the first women’s top seed in the Open era to lose in the first round, falling to Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi in straight sets.
The 26-year-old Romanian’s campaign lasted just an hour and 15 minutes, as Halep’s serve was broken five times in the opening round 6-2 6-4 defeat at the new Louis Armstrong stadium in New York on Monday.
Halep was visibly frustrated with her performance throughout the first set, before Kanepi doused the top seed’s 3-0 advantage in the second and confidently served out the match.
After the loss, Halep opened up about her perennial struggles in playing at the US Open, despite having reached the semi-finals in 2015 and the quarter-finals in 2016.
Halep also lost her opening match against Maria Sharapova at Flushing Meadows last year.
“I never play my best tennis here, even if I’ve done quarterfinals, semifinals,” she said.
“I feel like my game is not at its best, at the best level. But always I fight for every match.”
“I was tired, but positive tired because I played so many matches in Montréal and Cincinnati.
“I was actually practicing okay yesterday and two days ago, but that’s it. It’s just a day, and it’s a bad day for me. She deserved to win because she was playing better than me today.”
Before Monday’s defeat, no women’s top seed lost in the opening round at the US Open since the professional era began in 1968.
“Maybe it’s the noise in the crowd, the city is busy,” she said. “It’s everything together. I’m a quiet person, so maybe I like the smaller places.
“I’ve done great results here. I’m not complaining. I just mean that I don’t really feel my game at 100% when I step on the court here. Maybe in the future it’s gonna change something, I will change something and it will be better.”
Meanwhile, Ashleigh Barty made a confident start to her US Open campaign with a crushing first-round win over Tunisian qualifier Ons Jabeur.
Australia’s 18th seed spent just 65 minutes on court in stifling hot conditions, seeing off Jabeur 6-1 6-3 to book a date on Wednesday with either veteran Czech Lucie Safarova or Croatian Petra Martic.
Victory could set up a third-round showdown with dual grand slam champion and former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza.