She leaves this year after one match – unsure of exactly what went wrong during a season-long slump.
The sixth-seeded German was beaten by Naomi Osaka of Japan 6-3, 6-1, the first defending women’s champion eliminated in the first round of the US Open in 12 years.
“I think, yeah, it was not my day, completely not my day today,” Kerber said.
Not her year, actually.
Kerber is also on her way out of the top ten after losing one of the only completed matches before most of the schedule was washed out on a rainy Tuesday.
Not since Svetlana Kuznetsova lost in the first round in 2005 had the defending US Open women’s champion been ousted so early.
But perhaps it wasn’t too surprising after Kerber played so poorly following her breakthrough 2016, when she also won the Australian Open and lost to Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final before ascending to No 1 with her victory here.
This year, she fell in the first round of the French Open, the first time that had ever happened to the women’s No 1 seed in that tournament.
She said she had been practising well and was confident, despite some minor nagging injuries that had bothered her throughout the season. “I’m still the same player and the same person, so I think it’s just – yeah, I think it’s just the matches and how I played last year from the beginning and how I’m struggling this year,” Kerber said.
Kerber and Osaka had the stage to themselves after play was suspended on all courts other than Arthur Ashe Stadium, which has a retractable roof that was closed midway through top seed Karolina Pliskova’s 6-2, 6-1 victory over Magda Linette of Poland.
Kerber then took to the same court where she beat Pliskova for the title last year and suffered another stinging defeat. The left-hander needed to make it to at least the round of 16 to stay in the top ten and couldn’t get close. She had been in the top ten since 5 October 2015, a run that would total 101 weeks before she falls out.
With world No 2 Simona Halep’s loss to Maria Sharapova on Monday night and seventh-seeded Johanna Konta also falling, three of the top-seven seeds on the women’s side were gone by midday yesterday – with Williams not playing because she is pregnant.
Osaka broke for a 5-3 lead in the first set, then seized control when she broke twice in the second set to open a 4-1 cushion. She finished off the 65-minute victory when Kerber dumped a forehand into the net on match point before quickly departing for the locker room. It was Osaka’s first victory over a top-ten opponent after she was oh-so-close to beating a top player here last year, blowing a 5-1 lead in the third set and losing to Madison Keys in the third round.
“I just want to play good,” Osaka said. “I played good today, so I want to carry that on to my next match.”
Barbora Strycova, Pliskova’s Czech compatriot, also advanced with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Misaki Doi of Japan, while Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine was upset by Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium, 6-3, 6-1.