MELBOURNE: Alize Cornet celebrated her 32nd birthday with a stunning return and reached the second week of the Australian Open on Saturday – 13 years after the Frenchwoman last reached the fourth round at the Melbourne Park Major.
The former 11th player in the world defeated the 29th seed Tamara Zidanšek of Slovenia 4-6 6-4 6-2 in two hours and 43 minutes at the Margaret Court Arena.
Cornet, who slipped to 61st in the rankings and said the 2022 season would be her last on the Tour, said she was moved after the crowd sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her.
“I’m freezing. I’m not aware of that yet because I’m very tired at first. I’m not aware of what I just managed,” Cornet told reporters.
“It’s definitely a very, very special win when I came back in the second week 13 years after my first second week at the Australian Open. It’s very special. I mean, what else can I claim on my birthday?”
Having played in her 60th straight game, Cornet lost the opening set and trailed 4-1 in the second, but she dug deep to win 11 of her last 13 games to win.
Another win would take her to the girls ’quarterfinals of a major tournament. For this, she will have to beat multiple Grand Slam winner Simon Halep of Romania.
While Cornet may decide to call him out the day after the season, she said she hasn’t lost any passion for the game.
“I love the game as much as I used to. I’m just as passionate. I’m still fighting with all my heart,” said Cornet, who became embroiled in a verbal altercation with the referee after the offense with the referee.
“I just have more experience. Maybe I can handle my emotions a little better sometimes. Not all the time, it would be too easy.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Peter Rutherford)