‘16 champ Ker­ber ex­its at rainy US Open; Fed­erer edges teen

Rome News-Tribune - - SPORTS - By Howard Fen­drich As­so­ci­ated Press Ten­nis Writer

Frances Ti­afoe re­turns a shot to Roger Fed­erer dur­ing the first round of the U.S. Open ten­nis tour­na­ment Tuesday in New York.

NEW YORK — The ques­tion was rather sim­ple af­ter An­gelique Ker­ber be­came only the sec­ond de­fend­ing U.S. Open cham­pion in the pro­fes­sional era to lose in the first round.

The sur­pris­ingly lop­sided 6-3, 6-1 loss to 45thranked Naomi Osaka of Ja­pan un­der the closed roof in Arthur Ashe Sta­dium at a rainy Flush­ing Mead­ows on Tuesday was for­mer No. 1 Ker­ber’s lat­est in a long list of dis­ap­point­ing per­for­mances in 2017, so she was asked what she thinks went wrong this sea­son.

She sighed, shrugged her shoul­ders and be­gan to an­swer: “I don’t know.”

Mo­ments later, her eyes dart­ing around the room, she added, “This year is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent year.”

Talk about an un­der­state­ment. In 2016, Ker­ber broke through to the top of ten­nis in a spec­tac­u­lar way. A player with only one pre­vi­ous Grand Slam semi­fi­nal ap­pear­ance reached the first three ma­jor ti­tle matches of her ca­reer, win­ning two of them: She stunned Ser­ena Wil­liams in the Aus­tralian Open fi­nal, lost to Wil­liams in the Wim­ble­don fi­nal, and then beat Karolina Pliskova in the U.S. Open fi­nal to rise to the top of the WTA rank­ings for the first time.

Her fol­low-up has been quite a flop. Ker­ber, a 29-year-old Ger­man, hasn’t won any ti­tle of any sort this sea­son. She is only 25-18 over­all, 0-9 against op­po­nents ranked in the top 20, and Tuesday’s loss as­sured her of fall­ing out of the top 10 for the first time Julio Cortez / The As­so­ci­ated Press since Oc­to­ber 2015.

Show­ers showed up be­fore noon Tuesday and led to the post­pone­ments of dozens of matches. The only court used in the af­ter­noon and evening was Ashe, thanks to the re­tractable cover con­structed ahead of last year’s tour­na­ment.

The only men’s matches com­pleted were there, and Roger Fed­erer over­came a slow start and then a late lapse to edge 19-year-old Amer­i­can Frances Ti­afoe 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 in a com­pelling first-rounder at night.

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