And there we have it. Nadal breaks for one final time tonight in New York to secure victory. He needs five match points (five!) to get over the line as Hijikata puts up an almighty late fight, but a blistering forehand winner down the line finally breaks Hijikata’s resistance and does it for the Spaniard!
Hijikata departs the stadium to a rousing ovation – from Nadal as well as the crowd – and the 21-year-old can be very pleased with that outing tonight.
That pretty much wraps up our coverage of day two at Flushing Meadows. Before we head off though, here’s my colleague Tumaini Carayol’s thoughts on Emma Raducanu’s exit from the tournament. Let’s do it all again tomorrow.
At 4-3 up, Nadal wobbles. He is human, after all. Oh no, it turns out he’s not. As you were. Hijikata brings up three break points but the Spaniard saves all of them before, eventually, claiming the game. That was a tough one for Nadal, but he’s 5-3 up now and just one game from winning this match.
But just like that, Nadal then flicks the switch, as he is so capable of doing, breaks to love and takes a 3-2 lead. The second seed then confirms that break with a held service game – despite another instance of terrific shotmaking from Hijikata on his forehand – and it’s going to be difficult for the wildcard to turn this one around now. Nadal leads 4-2 in the fourth set, and he’s just two games away from a place in the second round.
Over on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the natural order of things has been restored with Rafa Nadal up two sets to one, but Rinky Hijikata is not letting the Spaniard have it all his own way in the fourth. The Australian has even won over sections of the New York crowd with some of his shot-playing. They’re level at two games apiece with Nadal leading 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
It’s a tough, early exit for Raducanu but she had a very tough draw against a player who has beaten three current or former world No 1s this year. Raducanu was far from perfect and committed more than 30 unforced errors, but it’s worth remembering she’s still only 19 – she has plenty of time to iron out the imperfections in her game.
Cornet speaks: “Emma is a great person and a great player so I’m sorry I beat her,” she says. “I was tired at the start of the second set because there were long rallies.”
She’s asked about her drop shots, which were very good tonight: “I like it, it’s one of my favourite shots.”
She puts her improvement in recent years: “Maybe I’m getting older, I can handle it better”.
Raducanu settles the nerves by winning the opening point but just misses a forehand to make it 15-15. Then another beauty of a drop shot from Cornet makes it 15-30: she has used that shot so well tonight. Raducanu strikes back, rushing the net to make it 30-30. But then a terrible forehand long gives Cornet match point. Raducanu then can’t control a volley at the net and her title defence is over.
Second set: Raducanu 3-6, 3-5 Cornet* (* denotes server)
Raducanu was close to her best early in this set but has faded recently (although Cornet has also played really well). She needs to rediscover that form if she’s to hold on to her title. And there’s nice backhand that skims the line to make it 15-15. But Cornet is too good again (although two unforced errors from Raducanu help) and she’s one game from victory.
Second set: *Raducanu 3-6, 3-4 Cornet (* denotes server)
Cornet, perhaps keen to capitalise on that nice hold last game, springs on to a Raducanu forehand to take a 0-15 lead. Then a drop shot makes in 0-30 – she’s used those really well tonight. Raducanu then goes for a big forehand, which she nets, at 15-30 to gift her opponent to break opportunities. Another unforced error gives Cornet the break. The Frenchwoman now only needs to hold serve to win the match.
Second set: Raducanu 3-6, 3-3 Cornet* (* denotes server)
A good service game from Cornet, which may have swung the momentum her way. A hold to love – easy holds have been a rarity so far tonight.
Second set: *Raducanu 3-6, 3-2 Cornet (* denotes server)
Raducanu has looked so much more confident in this set. I’m not sure if getting treatment on her blisters has helped her control, or she just needed a set to get the measure of Cornet and adapt to her style. And just like that Cornet, hits a brilliant backhand winner to make it 30-40. Which she follows up with a lovely drop shot winner. That showed me.
Second set: Raducanu 3-6, 3-1 Cornet* (* denotes server)
Another double fault from Cornet, that’s her eighth of the match. While plenty of people have pointed to the pressure Raducanu is under as defending champion, Cornet was the favourite coming into the match based on her recent form and has expectations of her own to deal with. But it’s Raducanu’s shot making that decides this game, culminating with a booming backhand that Cornet can’t reply to.
Second set: *Raducanu 3-6, 2-1 Cornet (* denotes server)
Can Raducanu come up with a hold? Her failure to do so has cost her heavily so far. She leaps out to a 40-15 lead with some vicious whipped forehands and completes things for just her second hold of the evening. That was impressive stuff from the Briton after being broken early in the set. Is the tide turning?
Second set: Raducanu 3-6, 1-1 Cornet* (* denotes server)
At 15-0, Cornet hits a weak second serve and Raducanu dismisses it with a ripped forehand down the line: she’s occasionally showing the shots that won her the tournament last year. Just not regularly enough. But that shot may have given her a little confidence and Raducanu secures a vital break. The roof has also rolled closed.
Second set: *Raducanu 3-6, 0-1 Cornet (* denotes server)
The better player won the first set. Cornet was happy enough to soak up the pressure from her opponent and wait for the unforced error. Raducanu did play with more freedom as the set went on though, and Cornet was a little shaky herself, sending down five double faults.
Anyway, let’s see how the defending champion goes in the second set. It’s a great rally to start open things, which Cornet finishes with a deft drop shot. There’s another long baseline rally at 15-15, which ends in an unforced error from Raducanu. At deuce a big, looping forehand gives Raducanu the advantage. But with options up, she hits a forehand straight at her opponent and Cornet is able to level the game at deuce. Not long after Cornet breaks. Raducanu is getting fewer than 50% of her first-serves in at the moment.
Elsewhere, Rafa Nadal has won the second set against Rinky Hijikata to level the match.
Raducanu, who has struggled with blisters in the run-up to the tournament, is receiving treatment to her hand from the trainer.
Cornet serves for the first set. And she’s soon 0-30 down soon enough, throwing her racquet away in frustration after a shot into the net. I’m not sure why she’s so frustrated, she’s in control of this match so far. Anyway, it appears to have worked when Cornet comes back to 30-30. A 25-shot baseline rally ensues, which ends with a thrumming forehand from Cornet down the line to bring up set point. Raducanu hits a forehand into the net and Cornet has the first set.
First set: *Raducanu 3-5 Cornet (* denotes server)
Raducanu looks like she’s going to take the game at 40-30 but Cornet reaches to return a volley and hits a brilliant winner. Great reflexes from the Frenchwoman. An error from Raducanu gives her opponent a break point, which she clinches after the Briton’s first double fault of the match.
Elsewhere at the US Open … Rafa Nadal seems to have woken up a little after losing the first set and is 3-0 up in the second.
First set: Raducanu 3-4 Cornet* (* denotes server)
Raducanu has 14 unforced errors to Cornet’s seven. But she hits a great forehand down the line at 30-0 down and then her opponent double faults for the fourth time to make it 30-30. Another unforced error from Raducanu makes it 40-30 before she takes it to deuce with a lovely cross-court volley at the net. Another double fault gives Raducanu a chance to break. Which she does when Cornet floats a forehand long.
First set: *Raducanu 2-4 Cornet (* denotes server)
Cornet’s backhand lob is too good for Raducanu, who has failed to find her rhythm at the moment. It’s 0-40 not long afterwards. She hits a big second serve that Cornet fails to deal with to save her first break point. She has a good chance to take it to deuce shortly afterwards but misses a backhand with the court gaping wide. Cornet is firmly in control.
First set: Raducanu 2-3 Cornet* (* denotes server)
A comfortable hold for the Frenchwoman. It looks like it’s going to be a tough night for the defending champion, but that was always expected against the world No 40, a ferocious competitor.
The Aussie world No 198 has taken the first set against the 22-time grand slam champion! We’re focused on Raducanu v Cornet on this blog but will keep you updated on that potential shock. Hijikata’s best grand slam performance so far is … this year’s US Open (first round).
First set: *Raducanu 2-2 Cornet (* denotes server)
Now it’s Raducanu struggling with her ball toss. But she wins a nice sequence of volleys at the net to move to 30-15, one of her better moments in an uneven performance so far. A backhand into the net gives the champion the game.
Meanwhile, we’ve got a story developing on Arthur Ashe: Australia’s Rinky Hijikata, the world No 198 the last time I checked, is serving for the first set against a guy called Rafa Nadal, who you may remember as being a half-decent player down the years.
First set: Raducanu 1-2 Cornet* (* denotes server)
Over on Arthur Ashe, Australia’s Rinky Hijikata has broken Rafa Nadal in the first set and leads 4-3. We’ll keep an eye on that one for you… Meanwhile, Cornet sends down her third double-fault of the match to make it 30-30. Both players are gifting their opponent points at the moment and they both look tight and stiff. Raducanu can’t get to a drop shot and Cornet holds.
First set: *Raducanu 1-1 Cornet (* denotes server)
Raducanu is in some early trouble in her opening service game, going down 0-30. A great serve out wide, brings us back to 15-30. It was only 87mph but perfectly placed. That’s about as good as it gets for the Briton though, who whacks a backhand wide to give her opponent a break of her own.
First set: Raducanu 1-0 Cornet* (* denotes server)
It’s Cornet to serve and she wins the first point of the match after her opponent dumps a forehand into the net. But she double faults a couple of points later to give Raducanu a 15-30 lead. Another double fault – her ball toss looks off – gives the Briton a 30-40 break chance but it’s saved with a smash at the net. Someone somewhere is letting off what sounds like an airhorn, which may be a little distracting when you’re serving in a grand slam. Raducanu has said she intends to attack during this tournament and she produces a wonderful backhand when it’s advantage to Cornet to bring us back to deuce. A few points later, Cornet splashes a backhand long and the champ has broken at the first opportunity.
And Raducanu and Cornet are now on court. The defending champ gets the biggest cheer as she enters from the fans. The stadium is still half-empty as the evening session fans file in slowly. There’s a chance of showers later in the evening, but Louis Armstrong Stadium has a retractable roof so we should be OK.
On Arthur Ashe, Nadal leads Hijikata 2-1 but we’re still on serve.
Nadal has started his campaign with ease, holding his first service game to love. Hijikata, dressed in patriotic gold and green, goes 15-30 down before coming back for a hold of his own.
Raducanu v Cornet will start a little late as the last match of the afternoon session on Louis Armstrong went long, so they need to switch the afternoon fans for the evening ones. We shouldn’t be too long though.
We’re still waiting for the players to come on court, but ESPN is showing a Dior advert starring Emma Raducanu. She’s not playing tennis in it, just selling some skin cream. Still, I’m sure she’ll be doing her day job soon enough.
Elsewhere, Rafa Nadal is warming up for his opener on Arthur Ashe. He’s playing Australia’s Rinky Hijikata as the Spaniard goes for his 23rd grand slam title.
New York humidity check: It was another filthy, humid day in New York City** but it’s starting to cool as the breeze picks up this evening. Your intrepid reporter visited several locations around the city this morning and can confirm today’s garbage aroma mainly smells of fish sauce. I’m not sure if there has actually been a large-scale spillage, or if the smell is just a result of garbage and today’s atmospheric conditions. Anyway, I’m sure the US Open has the resources to waft the smells out to the further reaches of Long Island.
** New York City is also a wonderful city to visit, with many cultural, artistic and culinary attractions. And nice smells on most days.
There’s been a fair amount of action already today, of course. In the men’s draw Raducanu’s fellow Brits, Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans, eased through to the second round:
In the women’s tournament, Venus Williams remained tight-lipped on her future after her exit in the first-round. She has barely played in the last year due to injury and was beaten in straight sets on Tuesday by Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium. While her sister, Serena, has said she’s retiring Venus has yet to say anything definite on her future.
“Right now I’m just focused on the doubles,” she said after today’s defeat, referencing Thursday’s match, where she will play alongside her sister. There’s a possibility it could be the final professional match of both sisters’ glittering careers.
Cornet is about as tough a player as you’re going to find among the unseeded ranks in this year’s tournament. The 32-year-old is the world No 40, and is incredibly tough to break down, something that could cause Raducanu problems after she vowed to come out and attack at Flushing Meadows this year.
The Frenchwoman is in pretty good form this season: she’s beaten three women who have held the world No 1 ranking – Iga Swiatek, Simona Halep and Garbiñe Muguruza – in this year’s grand slams so far. Oh, and she’s durable: tonight will mark her 63rd consecutive grand slam appearance – an all-time record.
Good evening. Emma Raducanu gets her title defence underway this evening in Queens, and while she’s been given a prestigious evening slot she’s playing on the US Open’s No 2 court, Louis Armstrong Stadium. That’s because some guy called Rafael Nadal is on Arthur Ashe, which is maybe justified when you’ve won 22 grand slam singles title.
The 19-year-old Briton has had a mixed lead-up to the tournament. On the one hand, she has had recent encouraging victories over Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, on the other she has had a few minor injuries to deal with.
“I had a few small things, got a couple blisters, a bit of a niggle here and there,” said Raducanu on Friday after a tough practice session. “It’s just one of those weird days where you feel a bit like nothing … I don’t know. You just feel a bit out of it. Can’t really explain myself, to be honest. I’m sure everyone in this room has probably had a day like that. Yeah, it is what it is.”