August 27, 2018 / 7:37 PM / a month ago

Bad day sends top seed Halep packing

NEW YORK (Reuters) - World number one Simona Halep shrugged off a shock first-round 6-2 6-4 loss to Kaia Kanepi at the U.S. Open on Monday as simply a “bad day” and it certainly was that as no top seed had ever made a worse start at Flushing Meadows.

Aug 27, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Simona Halep of Romania reacts after losing a point against Kaia Kinepi of Estonia (not pictured) in a first round match on day one of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

This kind of opening-round calamity in women’s Grand Slam tennis is rarer than a Rafael Nadal loss on clay.

Only on five previous occasions in the Open era had a women’s top seed lost in the first round and never before had one fallen at the opening hurdle in New York.

“It’s just a day and it’s a bad day,” said a misfiring Halep, who managed just nine winners while committing 25 forced errors. “It’s tough to lose. Sometimes I have tears. It’s normal but now I feel better.

Aug 27, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Simona Halep of Romania hits a forehand against Kaia Kinepi of Estonia (not pictured) in a first round match on day one of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

“I feel that it just was a bad day and I will move on fast. I never play my best tennis here.”

In nine visits to Flushing Meadows the speedy Romanian has lost her opening match on three occasions, including the last two.

Losing in the first round in her maiden U.S. Open would qualify as a learning experience and last year the second-seeded Halep had the bad luck to draw Maria Sharapova, the 2006 U.S. Open winner who was playing her first Grand Slam since returning from a 15-month doping ban.

But this year there were no excuses.

Halep had risen to the top of the world rankings. In May, after three runner-up finishes she finally made her Grand Slam breakthrough on the red clay at the French Open and had looked in superb form coming into Flushing Meadows after winning in Montreal and reaching the final in Cincinnati.

Aug 27, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Simona Halep of Romania reaches for a backhand against Kaia Kinepi of Estonia (not pictured) in a first round match on day one of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

She came into the season’s final Grand Slam as the leader in match wins this year and had only lost four times on hard court.

The draw, however, did not do Halep any favours with the 44th-ranked Kanepi always looking a potential landmine.

The two had only met once before on hardcourts, in Doha four years ago, and the Romanian needed a third set tiebreak to see off the Estonian, who had twice reached the U.S. Open quarters.

“I knew that she can play well here. She played quarter-finals last year,” Halep said. “Actually, I expected her to play like that without fear and hitting the balls really strong.

“Today was just was not my day. Sometimes it can happen and today happened. It’s nothing. It’s not a drama, but it’s tough.”

Editing by Ed Osmond

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