Carlos Alcaraz’s US Open title defense begins with anticlimax after first-round opponent Dominik Koepfer retires after an hour due to an ankle injury he suffered in the first game

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Carlos Alcaraz’s US Open title defense begins with anticlimax after first-round opponent Dominik Koepfer retires after an hour due to an ankle injury he suffered in the first game

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To think there were thousands of supporters who rocked up late for Tuesday’s evening session on Arthur Ashe. 

Perhaps they thought yet another long evening lay in store. Perhaps they were primed for a legend’s last stand and another exhibition from the new king of these parts. 

Well, the show court certainly witnessed some drama a few slices of history: Venus Williams’ heaviest US Open defeat; Carlos Alcaraz’s first Grand Slam match as defending champion. 

All this crowd missed out on? A competitive tennis match. You have to feel for the supporters, for Alcaraz and for his opponent Dominik Koepfer. 

Their night was over by 10pm and any grains of hope the German had of upsetting the world No 1, of writing his name into US Open folklore, were extinguished within the first game of Tuesday’s headliner. 

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During the sixth point of the match, he lined up a backhand, only to roll his left ankle. 

The pain was written on his face immediately. He called for the trainer, the message between him and his corner was: it is ‘done’. 

Credit the German – he limped on and a few games later, he told the umpire he didn’t want to retire after 20 minutes when there were 20,000 paying customers. 

But by then, this first-round match had been reduced to a formality. There were some boos when the end came after an hour, with Alcaraz leading by a set and a break – 6-2 3-2.

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The Spaniard won his first major here last year and remains on a collision course with the returning Novak Djokovic.

He tried his best to give the crowd some belated entertainment, belting out a few lines of a Spanish song down the microphone. 

The 20-year-old’s next chance to wow this place will come against South Africa’s Lloyd Harris in round two.

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