The reigning French Open champion became the first top-seeded woman to lose in the first round of the U.S. Open when she fell to No. 44 Kaia Kanepi, 6-2, 6-4, in the tournament's first match in a newly renovated Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Halep made another slow start at a Grand Slam tournament by losing the first set in 28 minutes, before going down a double-break in the second.
On a hot and humid day, Halep failed to sustain any kind of service rhythm and her usually stout defense proved no match for the powerful Kanepi's bruising groundstrokes and deft drop shots.
The only consolation for Halep is that she has amassed enough ranking points to remain world number one after the two-week tournament in NY.
But Kanepi ended a 14-stroke exchange with a cross-court forehand volley victor to break right back, then served out the victory.
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Despite battling back to 4-4 in the second set, Halep wasn't able to hold on. "I like the city", said Kanepi, who is from Estonia and is sharing a coach this week with another player, Andrea Petkovic.
Halep recovered and it appeared a comeback was on when she broke Kanepi to love to level the second set at 4-4.
"Today I just lost", Halep told reporters. I knew that she can play well here. She then reached the final in Cincinnati, making her a favorite at the U.S. Open.
Simona Halep won in Montreal this summer, and looked superb while doing it.
Seeding aside, the last world No. 1 to win the U.S. Open was Serena Williams in 2014.
She can take small consolation from the fact she has amassed enough ranking points to remain world number one after the two-week tournament ends.
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