Alize Cornet and a Grand Slam marathon that keeps getting longer | Tennis News


When Alize Cornet made her Grand Slam debut at the 2005 French Open, Emma Raducanu, the defending champion she knocked out in the first round of the US Open on Tuesday, was not even three years old.

That doesn’t just say a lot about the 32-year-old Frenchwoman’s longevity in the game, but also what she’s been able to do – she hasn’t missed a single Grand Slam in 16 years.

Read also | Rafael Nadal eliminates Hijikata in the first round of the US Open

Cornet’s 6-3, 6-3 win over the British teenager was her 63rd straight Grand Slam appearance; to perform four times a year on tennis’ most prestigious and demanding stage since the 2007 Australian Open. It’s a new record in the Open Era, better than Ai Sugiyama’s 62, l former world number 8 in Japanese singles.

It’s a stunning achievement for a player who has never been in the top 10 – Cornet’s highest ranking was No.11 in 2009 – or really challenged for Grand Slam titles. Prior to this year, the current world number 40 had not made it past the fourth round of a Slam.

Yet there she was (and still is), showing up at every Slam and refusing to throw in the towel. This has generally defined Cornet’s career, a career not replete with titles but distinguished by his tenacity and fitness, in a modern game littered with frequent player breakdowns, physically or mentally. She is the epitome of the “tricky opponent” for even the most accomplished early-round Slam champions, someone who ran for every ball and fought for every point. Cut off from Rafael Nadal’s cloth minus 22 Grand Slams and physical issues for about 20 years.

“It pretty much shows the kind of player I am,” Cornet said of what the record means to her after beating Raducanu. “The consistency I’ve had during those 16 years, the discipline I’ve had every day since I was 11. The fact that I don’t get hurt a lot, because I’m strong and also because I work a lot on my body… It’s just proof of my consistency. Even on the court, as I’m always 100% for every game, for every set, for every point. I’m pretty happy to have this disc I don’t think I can’t deserve it.

It’s only fitting that after all those years of battling in Grand Slams without much to show for, Cornet has clung to this piece of history in her most productive season. Cornet reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, her deepest run ever at a Slam, and the knockout stages at Wimbledon, her first since 2014. She entered the semifinals of the WTA 250 event in Cleveland last week, where she also scored her 500th WTA victory.

Cornet has in the past staged the occasional win over top guns — she’s beaten Serena Williams three times — but they’ve come with more frequency this year. She has landed a Grand Slam winner in each of the four Grand Slam tournaments: Garbine Muguruza (Round 2) and Simona Halep (Round of 16) at the Australian Open, Jelena Ostapenko (Round 2) at Roland-Garros, World No. 1 Iga Swiatek (Round 3) at Wimbledon and Raducanu at the US Open. The defense and the variety of his game – soft shots, finesse at the net, etc. – offset Raducanu’s power play in their first-round win in New York.

“I feel like this year I’m kind of the upset girl,” Cornet laughed. “I think it’s crazy. It’s pretty cool. These players that I admire, that I have followed for a long time, knowing that I am part of this world that I can beat them in Slams. I don’t know, I still feel like a kid sometimes.

A kid who believes her best season at 32 is due to growing maturity, better managing emotions and simply having fun on the pitch. “Maybe because I know I won’t have the chance to play as many Grand Slams again. I really try to soak up the moment, to enjoy, to have fun, to draw energy from the court” , Cornet said.

She said earlier this year that the finish line of her career would likely be at the end of this season. The quality of her tennis over the past few months has forced her to push that line a little further. She will now play at least until next year’s French Open, her home Slam that hasn’t quite yielded the farewell scenes she envisioned. Forced to retire mid-game due to a thigh injury in the third round, Cornet was booed by part of the crowd.

“When I came off the pitch, those whistles, it was a sign to me (that) I had to come back,” she said.


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