NEW YORK — Simona Halep made history in the first match ever on the new Louis Armstrong Stadium at the US Open.
And not in a good way.
With the tournament barely two hours old, the world No. 1 and top seed at the Open was sent packing by the powerful Estonian Kaia Kanepi, 6-2, 6-4, marking the first time ever that the No. 1 seed has lost in the first round.
Stunner on Louis Armstrong Stadium!
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 27, 2018
The match lasted 1 hour, 16 minutes and was played in temperatures reaching the mid-80s.
It marks the sixth time in the Open Era the No. 1 seed has lost in the first round, and the first time since Angelique Kerber fell as the No. 1 at Roland Garros 2017.
Halep has played in 34 Grand Slam tournaments and lost in the first round in 12 of them, according to the New York Times.
As the No. 2 seed last year, Halep also lost in the first round last year to Maria Sharapova.
“It just changes the top half of the draw big time,” ESPN’s Mary Jo Fernandez said on air.
Indeed, No. 17 seed Serena Williams, who is set to play Monday night in Arthur Ashe Stadium, was drawn to play Halep in the fourth round. Venus Williams, the No. 16 seed, was set to play the former Open champ, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Monday afternoon. Serena could potentially have played Venus in the third round and Halep in the fourth. Now she won’t have to if she advances.
“Yesterday I thought that I had beaten just once the world No. 1, so today I have another chance,” Kanepi, who beat then-No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in 2011, said on-court.
Asked what her game plan was, she said, “Playing aggressive all the time.”
Kanepi smacked 26 winners against 28 unforced errors, while Halep managed just nine winners against nine unforced errors.
Halep entered the tournament among the favorites to win it. She won her maiden Grand Slam at the French Open earlier this year, and then looked strong on North American hardcourts, winning the title in Montreal and reaching the final in Cincinnati before losing to Kiki Bertens. She then withdrew from last week’s event in New Haven to prepare for the Open.
Kanepi surged to a 6-2, 3-0 lead before Halep tied it at 4-all in the second set. Kanepi broke her in the ninth game, causing Halep to smash her racket while sitting courtside during the changeover.
Kanepi then held serve and won the match when Halep sailed a forehand return long.