Cornet, Collins into Open quarter-finals

John Salvado |

Evergreen Frenchwoman Alize Cornet burst into tears of relief and joy after finally advancing to the last eight at a grand slam at her 63rd attempt with an epic Australian Open win over Simona Halep.

After dropping the first set on a stinking hot Monday afternoon in Melbourne, the 14th-seeded Halep looked to have righted the ship when she reeled off six straight games, having gone 3-1 behind in the second.

But the 32-year-old Cornet held her nerve as the temperature soared well above 30 degrees Celsius on Rod Laver Arena, clinching the 6-4 3-6 6-4 victory over Romania’s two-time major winner on her third match point.

“It feels amazing,” said Cornet.

“The battle I had with Simona today with this heat – after 30 minutes we were both dying on the court.

“We kept going for two and a half hours with all of our heart.

“Congratulations to Simona because I know she struggled a lot.

“I admire this player so much, she’s such a fighter and an example for me.

“To beat her today to go to my first quarter-final is just a dream come ture.

I don’t know what to say; it’s just magic.”

Cornet’s opponent in the quarter-finals will be American Danielle Collins, who also needed three tight sets to overcome Belgian 16th seed Elise Mertens.

Cornet was playing in her 63rd major overall and her 60th in succession – just two shy of the all-time record held by retired Japanese player Ai Sugiyama.

Until now, her best performances at the grand slams had been five appearances in the fourth round, one of them at the Australian Open way back in 2009.

“It’s never too late to try again,” Cornet said. 

Halep, runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki in 2018, had been bidding to reach the last eight at Melbourne Park for the sixth time in the past nine years.

In the earlier match, Collins was forced to come from a set down for the second straight match to beat Mertens 4-6 6-4 6-4 in a marathon encounter that lasted almost three hours.

“Especially today it was really physically tough for me,” said Collins.

“I played a long match the other day (against rising Danish star Clara Tauson) for two and a half hours and then I played doubles, so I spent about five hours on court.

“I had to make a lot of technical adjustments to make myself comfortable moving around, especially serving.

“That was a big challenge and now I need to focus on getting ready for doubles again.”

The 28-year-old Collins’ best performance at a major came on her Melbourne Park debut in 2019 when she made it all the way to the last four before bowing out to Petra Kvitova.

Mertens had also reached the semis on her first trip to the Australian Open before also going out to eventual champion Wozniacki.