US Open - Day 2: Job done for Nadal, Cornet halts Raducanu reign

There was an early test for Rafael Nadal, whilst Alize Cornet continued to cause major shocks in Grand Slam play this season.

Rafael Nadal / 1er tour US Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

The second day of US Open 2022 was a concoction of everything that makes Grand Slam tennis special.

The stars on show, the five-set thrillers, it was a big day in the Big Apple.

Nadal fights off nerves and Aussie sparkle

1,087 days since his last US Open appearance, Rafael Nadal was back to winning ways in New York.

Very few are talking about the possibility that the four-time US Open champion could match Serena Williams’ 23-major haul this fortnight. 

Well, one down as Nadal quelled the entertaining, frenetic play of Australian wild card Rinky Hijikata 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3, sparking a trademark lassoed forehand on the run, down the line on match point. The smile and fist pump celebration told the story.

“I was a little bit nervous. First match here in New York after three years, night session, it's always exciting. Yeah, I went through this tough moment,” admitted Nadal, 20-0 in Grand Slam play in 2022.

“Second match in 50 days more or less. Is a day to just make the job done, and that's what I did. Happy for that.”

The Roland-Garros champion had played just one match since an abdominal tear forced him to withdraw at Wimbledon. However, he settled into some pulsating play on Tuesday night, with his multitude of injury concerns appearing to subside.

“Things are not perfect when you are not competing very often, when you come back from injury. You need to be humble enough to go through this process and accept that you need to fight, and you need to accept that you are going to suffer,” explained the 36-year-old.

“Can't complain much. Be in the second round of the US Open, it's important for me." 

Fabio Fognini is a familiar foe awaiting on Thursday. The Italian produced a blockbuster comeback from two sets down to defeat Nadal in the 2015 US Open third round. Surely not again?

Fognini and compatriots Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti all edged through five-set epics to book their second round tickets.

“Upset girl” Cornet caps historic night

The 2022 US Open is a celebration for Alize Cornet, chalking up her 63rd consecutive Grand Slam main draw showing to break the Open Era record. 

The wily Frenchwoman marked the occasion with an archetypical resilient display to dismiss 2021 champion Emma Raducanu 6-3, 6-3 under the lights.  

“It's amazing for me to celebrate this record by winning on Armstrong in the night session against the defending champ,” stated the 32-year-old. “It's like the stars are aligned, you know? It's such a special moment for me.”

Cornet utilised her immense defence to nullify the shot-making of the 11th seed. Raducanu rallied with a 3-1 lead in the second set, but Cornet had all the answers. 

The world No.40 has now taken out Grand Slam champions at each of the majors this season. Simona Halep in Melbourne, Jelena Ostapenko in Paris and she snapped Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak at Wimbledon last month.

“This year I'm kind of the upset girl,” quipped Cornet. “I pull out an upset on every slam. I was like, ‘Okay, I did it on the three previous Grand Slams, so why not this one?’

“I’m sorry I beat her tonight, but I’m really happy with my performance. I was fighting my heart out and hanging in there.”

For Raducanu, it’s time to reassess following a turbulent campaign since transforming from qualifier to underdog champion 12 months ago.

“Obviously really disappointing, really sad to leave here. It's probably my favourite tournament,” said the 19-year-old.

“But also, in a way happy because it's a clean slate. I'm going to drop down the rankings. In a way the target will be off my back slightly. I just have another chance to claw my way back up there.”

Swiatek embraces early hurdle

World No. 1 and Roland-Garros champion Swiatek is up and running courtesy of an accomplished 6-3, 6-0 scoreboard over Jasmine Paolini.

The top seed, eager to book a maiden second week at Flushing Meadows, is grateful for an early contest.

“I like playing these first matches because it’s a pretty good test for me and I can really find my rhythm. The last tournaments I’ve started with byes, which is great, but sometimes it’s pretty weird to play an opponent who has already played matches,” stated the Pole.

“Right now, we start from an even position and it’s pretty cool because I can really implement what I’ve been working on in practices.”

Swiatek will meet 2017 champion Sloane Stephens next, in a rematch of their recent Cincinnati match, which the world No.1 claimed in two tight sets.

Elsewhere, Venus Williams’s record 91st Grand Slam main draw was halted 6-1, 7-6(5) by Belgium’s Alison van Uytvanck.

The home crowd was happier when Danielle Collins erased three previous defeats to 2018 and 2020 US Open winner Naomi Osaka with an enthralling 7-6(5), 6-3 night triumph.

Earlier on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz was embroiled in a hotshot battle with Sebastian Baez, before the fellow NextGen star retired at 7-5, 7-5, 2-0 in favour of the 3rd seed.

A plethora of seeds motored into the second round, including the likes of Jessica Pegula, 2014 champion Marin Cilic, Paula Badosa, Grigor Dimitrov and Garbine Muguruza. 

There was a huge shock when French youngster Clara Burel prevailed past Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina 6-4, 6-4.

Also, Andrea Petkovic and Sam Querrey called time on their brilliant singles careers following hard-fought first round defeats.

In the diary on Day 3

It’s another star-studded roster on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

2012 champion Andy Murray opens against American protégé Emilio Nava.

World No. 1 Daniil will hope to close the night session in style facing France’s Arthur Rinderknech.

Between them, 12th seed Coco Gauff will take on world No.57 Elena-Gabriela Ruse. Coco’s idol Serena Williams will open the night session, hoping to extend her farewell major with 2nd seed Anett Kontaveit over the net.

In other standout matches Nick Kyrgios has Benjamin Bonzi in his path, whilst in-form Brit Jack Draper will tussle with sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.

2019 champion Bianca Andreescu versus Beatriz Haddad Maia will certainly be worth a watch too.