Party planner: Cornet upsets Muguruza and heads into AO third round

By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, January 19, 2022

World No. 61 Alizé Cornet gave herself a birthday present by toppling third-seeded Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-3 to reach the AO third round.

photo credit: Getty

Longevity is more than an extended game, it’s a state of mind for Alize Cornet.

Playing in his 60th consecutive Grand Slam tournament, Cornet celebrated his endurance by deconstructing third place Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-3, for the third round of the Australian Open.

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WTA Finals champion Muguruza is the highest-ranked woman to fall so far, joining sixth-seeded Anett Kontaveit, who lost to 19-year-old Dane talent Clara Tauson, 11th-ranked Sofia Kenin. seed, and Angelique Kerber, seed 16. of Melbourne before the third round.

“I feel like my shots weren’t as accurate and precise,” said Muguruza, whose 35 hard-court wins in 2021 were the second-most on the Tour in Kontaveit. “I also think my aggressive game wasn’t that aggressive today. I feel like she was dominating some of the long points.

“Yeah, I think in general my game wasn’t there.”

It was Cornet’s 10th career Top 5 win and fourth Grand Slam victory against a top-10 woman following her 2014 stunner against world No. 1 Serena Williams at Wimbledon, a triumph at Roland Garros in 2017 against Agnieszka Radwanska and a victory at Wimbledon in 2021 against No 7 Bianca Andreescu.

The 61st-ranked Frenchwoman turned Rod Laver Arena into a fun home by beating the 2020 AO runner-up to the ball and carving her into key grassroots rallies in an impressive 87-minute win.

“I feel amazing – I think I played a good game today,” said Cornet. “My state of mind was perfect, I wasn’t very tight, I was just super focused on what I had to do.

“I felt like I was in a bubble. You always have to put on a really good match to beat Garbine, she’s a real fighter. Even in the end, I was one set away, a break, but I knew she wouldn’t let go of a single point.

Constantly pressing former world No. 1 Muguruza’s serve, Cornet pushed the Spaniard to equalize in five of her first six service games and converted three of the day’s 12 break points.

Cornet, who won 25 of 30 first-serve points, did not face a break point in the game. It was Cornet’s third straight victory over Muguruza and a double celebration two days before she celebrates her 32nd birthday.

The owner of six WTA titles said she was trying to focus on fun as a source of energy in her 17th season on the tour.

“I’m really happy with the way I played. In two days it’s my birthday, so I think it’s the best present I can give myself,” said Cornet. “Longevity, I’m very proud of it. Of course I’m a perfectionist I always think I can do better. “But today I walked onto the pitch thinking I’m going to have fun and actually that’s the best way to play is when I’m having fun and there’s been a lack of fun sometimes. in my career – in this 16 year career – but I think right now I just want to enjoy it I don’t know how many years I have left Today was a perfect gift that I can give myself and I really hope the trip goes even further for me.

The 2020 runner-up saved three break points in her first service game but double-faulted in the fourth. Cornet broke for 2-0.

A consistent Cornet sent shots deep, giving the Spaniard little to work with as she served in game four. Trying to change it, Muguruza attacked but drove a low volley wide to fall into a triple break point hole.

The WTA Finals champion battled all three, including handling a tricky backhand half-volley winner to draw even at two. Slipping a service winner down the middle, Muguruza stood tall in the middle of a tough test to get on the board after 21 minutes.

Playing with white tape wrapping his right leg, Cornet was quick to the ball and shrewdly cut angles.

Former world No. 11 Cornet earned the double set point in game eight. Muguruza calmed the slump with a smash and a stinging serve through a tense four-and-a-half-minute hold for 3-5.

Launching a desperate defensive lob to extend the point, Cornet shook the former No. 1 around the pitch and then brought her down. Luring the Spanish forward, Cornet passed him a return pass for three more set points.

At his fourth set point, Cornet slid wide slice serve, sealing the 47-minute opener without facing a break point.

Two of Muguruza’s weapons – his powerful flat strikes and crackling two-handed backhand – didn’t hurt Cornet’s offense or ambition. Cornet is enjoying the pace she is getting from the Spaniard’s two-handed game and has changed direction effectively down the line. The Frenchwoman came forward hitting a nice forehand volley for another break point.

Muguruza, who netted in her opener against France’s Clara Burel, found no joy in a push forward as Cornet fired a forehand pass for 3-2.

When she needed to summon energy for a final push, Muguruza couldn’t quite raise her level.

“It’s been quite a stressful start to the year as well with my team,” Muguruza said. “They all had COVID before they came here. We were, like, 15 days apart. It was hard for me to prepare to come to the Aussie swing and play and perform well. It was a little tricky.

“Physically here, I also didn’t feel at my best. It was kind of a stressful start to the year, I would say, yeah.”

The world No. 61 backed the break at 15 – by then Cornet had won 12 of 14 points played on her serve in the second set.

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Serving to stay in the tournament, Muguruza plunged into self-sabotage as he hit a pair of double faults and navigated a forehand to give up serve at love.

An ecstatic Cornet burst into a cry of triumph and then sent a shout to his parents. Cornet, who competes in Melbourne without a coach, boasts the third-longest consecutive Grand Slam streak in WTA history behind only Ai Sugiyama (62) and Francesca Schiavone (61).

The Frenchwoman will look to maintain her 17th AO appearance when she faces Heather Watson or 29th seed Tamara Zidansek for a place in the round of 16.

Joseph K. Bennett