In the first official match on the $150 million Armstrong court at Flushing Meadows, No. 1 seed Simona Halep of Romania crashed and burned in the first round of the US Open against 43rd-ranked Kaia Kanepi 6-2, 6-4 before most fans had settled in for the afternoon. "It was my first back here in NY, so that wasn't the easiest", Williams told the crowd.
Halep, who had claimed her first Grand Slam title in Paris in June, came into the US Open 2018 flying high after a string of big results during the US Open series, lifting the title in Montreal and reaching the final in Cincinnati.
Kanepi has an impressive grand slam pedigree having reached six quarter-finals, including here past year, when she progressed to the last eight as a qualifier after injury problems had seen her drop down the rankings.
Defending champion Sloane Stephens eased into the second round with a 6-1 7-5 victory over Russian Evgeniya Rodina.
Halep's loss was the first match at the rebuilt Louis Armstrong Stadium, which now has about 14,000 seats and a retractable roof, and what a way to get things started. However, Day 1 witnessed 33 degrees Celsius heat instead of rain. She then spoke about her love for playing at the US Open, "I love playing here in NY. I like the weather: humid and hot", said Kanepi. "I think it's the way we match up", Kanepi said, speaking about the pair's last meeting in Doha. But Halep, the world's No. 1 player, broke Kanepi at love to draw even at 4-4. Kanepi has shown the occasional ability to grab significant results, including a run to the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows a year ago. She fired 26 winners compared to just nine from Halep. Wearing two strips of athletic tape on her left shoulder, the right-handed Kanepi also had far more unforced errors, 28-9, but that high-risk, high-reward style ultimately paid off.
"Today just was not my day, the balance was not there".
Early in the second set, on the way to falling behind by two breaks at 3-0, Halep slammed her racket twice, drawing a warning for a code violation from the chair umpire.
Despite battling back to 4-4 in the second set, Halep wasn't able to hold on. Kanepi was also surprised by Halep's crowd support, "I was thinking about that - why are they cheering for her so much, because normally they cheer for the underdog", she said. Halep got ticked at hitting a poor passing shot on break point, in which Kanepi executed a lovely forehand-sliced angled volley victor. "I have time to be aggressive".