When Emma Raducanu, Harriet Dart and Katie Boulter qualified at the weekend for the main draw of the US Open there was cause for celebration as Britain had 5 women competing in the first round of a Grand Slam outside of Wimbledon for the first time since the 1992 Australian Open, but that was quickly whittled down to just 2 after Johanna Konta withdrew and both Heather Watson and Dart lost their opening matches on Monday.
Konta, the British No 1, pulled out just hours before her opener against Kristina Mladenovic, the World No 58 from France, because of a left thigh injury.
The 30-year old, who is ranked 47, was due play around 8pm BST but officials announced that she had withdrawn, joining Jennifer Brady and Jelena Ostapenko on the sidelines, who also pulled out of their respective first round matches.
It has been a difficult year for Konta, adding further disappointment after parting ways for a second time with coach Dimitri Zavialoff.
Although she won the title in Nottingham, Konta missed Wimbledon, after a close contact tested positive for Covid-19, and then contracted the virus herself and was unable to travel to Tokyo for the Olympics.
Her return to action in Montreal was going well as she beat Ukraine’s World No 5 Elina Svitolina and reached the 3rd round of the National Bank Open, but she then had to pulled out ahead of her match with American teenager Coco Gauff due to her on-going left knee issue.
Konta, who reached the quarter-finals here in 2019, returned to action at the Western & Southern Open a fortnight ago, losing to Czech Katerina Muchova in 3 sets.
Her withdrawal means she will lose the 360 rankings points she picked up at the 2019 US Open and retained under the revised rankings system, which will drop her out of top 50 for the first time since 2015.
It will also result in Watson, who Konta beat in New York at last year in her last win at a Grand Slam, taking over the British No 1 spot.
Meanwhile, Brady’s premature departure because of a knee injury has produced a new opponent for Raducanu who, on her overseas Grand Slam debut, instead of taking on the World No 14, now faces lucky loser Stefanie Vogele, the Swiss World No 128.
The 26-year-old American 13th seed made the final of the Australian Open and was a semi-finalist at Flushing Meadows 12 months ago, losing to Naomi Osaka, but missed Wimbledon with a foot injury and has won only one match in her two tournaments since.
She also retired through injury from her second-round match at the Cincinnati Masters a fortnight ago, and has not recovered.
After coming through qualifying in New York, Raducanu, 18, is hoping to back up her Wimbledon exploits, where she reached the last 16 as a wild-card.
After initially being scheduled to play Brady on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Raducanu now faces Vogele on Court 17, a smaller show court, at around 7pm BST on Tuesday.
The 31-year-old Swiss reached a career-high of No 42 in 2013 with her best performance at Flushing Meadows a second-round defeat in 2009.
Elsewhere, current British No 2 Watson has not won an opening match on the hard courts of the US Open over the past 10 years, despite being the junior champion here in 2009, and any hopes of breaking that duck were shattered by Kaja Juvan from Slovenia, who dispatched her, 6-1 6-4, in the first meeting between the two.
Watson was showing signs of good form in Cincinnati but ended up retiring in her next match in Chicago because of injury.
Two early breaks saw Juvan take control straight away in a one-sided opening set to ease into a one set lead.
Watson offered better resistance in the second, but she lost her serve in the 7th game, and the Slovenian ran away with the win.
Out on Court 10, Dart followed Watson’s departure after being troubled by injury in a 6-7(8) 6-4 6-2 defeat at the hands of France’s Caroline Garcia, the World No 62.
Dart played excellently in the first set, and had her chances to close it out at 6-5, 40-15 up, when her serve failed her, double-faulting twice as she aborted several ball tosses before limply landing her second deliveries onto which Garcia pounced to take matters into the tiebreak.
The British No 4 recovered sufficiently to win the breaker but in the second set, Dart took a medical timeout for lengthy treatment on what appeared to be a left leg injury, and returned with the thigh heavily strapped, although she took this off a couple of games later.
Garcia, a former World No 4 but now ranked 62, sensing Dart’s lack of mobility, extended the rallies with increasing authority and rode out the match with relative ease, leaving Raducanu and Boulter as the remaining surviving British women yet to make an impact on the singles draw.
On Tuesday, in the last match scheduled on Court 9, Boulter, the British No 6, faces Russia’s Liudmilla Samsonova in her opener, one of the year’s biggest improvers, who has had an excellent season on the grass.