NEW YORK -- Along with Carolina Garcia, Simona Halep came into this US Open as one of the hottest players in tennis.
On Monday, after running into a 20-year-old from Ukraine playing only her third WTA-level match and first at a major, she is out of the draw. Qualifier Daria Snigur pulled off the Day 1 upset on Louis Armstrong Stadium, 6-2, 0-6, 6-4.
It was the first tour-level win for Snigur, and it couldn’t have come on a bigger stage.
“I’m very happy,” she said, voice quavering. “I’m very, very, very nervous,” she said. “But I tried to do my best.”
After the self-described worst year of her career, Halep was finding that life at 30 was considerably better than it was at 29.
The loss to Snigur, a former junior No.2, would have been her 40th of the season -- something she hasn’t done in four years. After taking the title two weeks ago in Toronto, Halep had won 19 of her past 22 matches.
Snigur, whose most recent match had been at the ITF Bronx W60 event, knocked Halep off the court with a wildly unorthodox style, winning six of the first eight games. She dominated the two-time Grand Slam champion in every way possible.
Twenty-four minutes later, after winning 24 of 30 points and all six games, Halep was even.
In the third set, the momentum swung back toward Snigur as she channeled her first-set self, calmly striking winners and matching Halep’s scurrying defense. It was 5-1, when Halep began to come back -- and Snigur seemed to realize just where she was and what was happening.
Halep closed to 4-5, but Snigur served out the match, winning when a Halep backhand found the net. She put her hands to her eyes and when she pulled them down, her tears were evident.
Snigur broke Halep’s serve five times -- and forced 15 break points. She finished with 11 winners and 27 unforced errors. Halep, meanwhile, had 13 winners and an uncharacteristic 30 unforced errors.
It was another in a series of recent US Open disappointments for the Romanian.
The US Open has been a challenge for Halep since she reached the 2015 semifinals and the quarterfinals a year later. Her last four results: lost first round in 2017 and 2018, the second round in 2019 and the Round of 16 a year ago.