Wimbledon: Cornet Beats The (Almost) Unbeatable Swiatek

Alizé Cornet (photo: Wimbledon video)

WIMBLEDON/WASHINGTON, July 2, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Eight years after beating Serena Williams in the third round of the Wimbledon Championships in 2014, Alizé Cornet has done it, again. She’s beaten another World No. 1 player. This time, the 32-year-old Frenchwoman known for her high drama on court and witty repartee off it, beat the unbeatable.

On No. 1 Court Saturday afternoon, the 37th-ranked Cornet ended the 37-match winning streak of top-seeded Iga Swiatek, 6-4, 6-2, in an hour and 33 minutes.

Swiatek, who was playing just her 11 career match on grass to 60 for Cornet, hadn’t lost a tennis match on any surface since February. During her remarkable streak, she won six straight tournaments: Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart, Rome and the French Open. Swiatek amassed an impressive portfolio of victories 43 to just three defeats. Now, the streak is over.

“I’m like good wine,” said a grinning Cornet during her on-court interview after she upended Swiatek to move into the Wimbledon fourth round for the second time in her career and first in eight years. “In France, good wine always ages well. This court is a lucky charm for me. I want to say I’m a huge fan of Iga. She is so talented and such a nice ambassador of women’s tennis. I’m very flattered I beat her today.”

Although Cornet won just 65 percent of her first-serve points, she converted five of six break points against Swiatek and made just seven unforced errors. Cornet hit 16 winners – five fewer than the 21-year-old Polish star – but benefited from the 33 unforced errors that Swiatek made. Cornet outpointed the two-time major champion 69-51, who never looked comfortable on the No. 1 Court grass.

“This is the kind of match I’m living for,” Cornet added. “I knew I could do it even though she had so many wins in a row because she feels a little less comfortable [on grass] than on other surfaces, So, I was just believing and very focused, with the best team on my side – and the best crowd.”

During her post-match press conference, Swiatek reflected on her state of mind: “Usually, I am hard on myself. Here, I know how I felt before matches, I know how I felt when I was practicing. Let’s just say that I didn’t feel like I’m in a best shape. So, I’m kind of aware that this could happen. Maybe, it’s not the right attitude to have, but it is like it is.

“I tried many things to feel better on court, on grass court, but it didn’t really work out. That’s why I’m not even hard on myself because, like, it’s kind of logic that if I couldn’t find it even on practices, I’m not going to find it on a match.”

Meanwhile, in a year of milestones for Cornet, last January she beat former No. 1 Simona Halep to reach her first major quarterfinal at the Australian Open. Then, she tied the women’s record for most consecutive Grand Slams played, equaling At Sugiyama’s mark of 62.

“It’s a really nice feeling although I need to process it. I’m not completely realizing it just now. It’s unreal,” Cornet said after lifting her win-loss record this year to 15-14, including 6-2 on grass. “This is one of the best seasons of my career. I’m having so much fun. I feel good physically. I’m still motivated. I still have the fire in me.”

Come Monday, Cornet will play No. 44 Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, who upset No. 13 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. During the two-hour and six-minute match on Court 12, Tomljanovic won despite being outpointed 81-79 by the 2021 French Open champion.

Unmissable, Kyrgios comes up clutch in win over Tsitsipas

Mercurial Aussie Nick Kyrgios put on quite a show for the sold-out No. 1 Court crowd to enjoy. It was Kyrgios at his unscripted and unfiltered best. It was good box office for the All England Club.

The 40th-ranked Kyrgios reached the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time in six years after defeating World No. 5 and fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7), in three hours and 17 minutes of unmissable tennis.

“Honestly, it was a hell of an atmosphere, amazing match,” Kyrgios said in his on-court interview. “I honestly felt like the favorite coming in, I played him a couple weeks ago. But I knew that it was going to be a tough match.

“He’s a hell of a player. I had my own tactics out there and he knows how to play me, he’s beaten me once. Obviously, I’ve had success. It was a hell of a match.”

Kyrgios earned his first win in a major against a Top-10 opponent since Wimbledon in 2015. He hit 14 aces and compiled 61 winners to 31 unforced errors, while Tsitsipas put up the following numbers: 21 aces, 57 winners and 36 unforced errors. Kyrgios outpointed Tsitsipas 154-144.

Next, Kyrgios will play American Brandon Nakashima in the round of 16 Monday and try to reach his third Grand Slam quarterfinal and first since the 2015 Australian Open.

Anisimova wins battle of young Americans over Gauff

Amanda Anisimova called winning on Centre Court at Wimbledon the most special day of her career. It was easy to see why. After she struck match point, Anisimova fell to the ground, closed her eyes and soaked in the applause. Was she dreaming or had she just experienced reality?

On Saturday afternoon, the 20-year-old came of age and upset No. 11 seed Coco Gauff, who at 18 was the youngest player in this year’s women’s draw. The No. 20 seed Anisimova defeated Gauff, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1, in two hours and seven minutes, in an all-American clash played out at the All England Club. It advanced the New Jersey-born Floridian, who was a 2019 French Open semifinalist, into Monday’s fourth round against unseeded Harmony Tan of France.

From the outset, there wasn’t much to separate the two fierce American competitors. After Gauff jumped ahead to an early 3-0 lead, Anisimova battled back to level the set. It took a tie-break to decide the first set and Gauff reeled off six straight points to win it 7-4.

However, Anisimova would go on to show her dominance – and her aggressiveness – in the second set before running away with the victory. By the end of the third, noted BBC commentator Caroline Wozniacki, “there was really nothing she could do wrong. Every shot was so compact, so consistent.

“[Amanda] is a player now. If she can play like she did today, she has a chance to go all the way.”

Anisimova outpointed Gauff 107-89 by hitting 27 winners to overcome 40 unforced errors. Anisimova converted seven of 12 break-point chances. Gauff was undone on her serve, winning just 53 percent (26 of 49) of her first-serve points.

“It was my first time playing on Centre Court. It was the most special day, I think, of my career,” Anisimova said during her on-court interview, still looking and feeling a bit giddy from all of the attention thrusted upon her.

“It’s such a huge privilege to play on this court. I was so excited playing Coco. She’s such an amazing player, who got the finals of a Grand Slam. Before the match, I was just trying to prepare myself to really soak in this moment whether I win or lose. Winning today is just so special. I’m very grateful for this experience, especially in front of a full crowd. You guys were amazing. Thank you.”

A week that Tan will never forget

Harmony Tan‘s week just keeps getting better. First, the 24-year-old Frenchwoman from Paris beat seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams on Centre Court, in her debut match at Wimbledon. Then, the World No. 115 eliminated No. 32 seed Sara Sorribes Tormo in straight sets. On No. 2 Court Saturday, Tan needed just 51 minutes to advance to the round of 16 with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over No. 118 Katie Boulter of Great Britain.

Playing composed and focused, Tan took charge from the beginning against Boulter, who had advanced to the third round with an upset victory over No. 6 seed Karolina Pliskova on Centre Court Thursday. Against Boulter, Tan won 81 percent (29 of 36) of her service points and converted five of 10 break-point chances. She outpointed her opponent 53-24.

“I don’t think I believe it yet,” said Tan, who now will play No. 20 seed Amanda Anisimova on Monday. “If I sleep a little bit tonight, maybe I will believe it tomorrow. Today was really good tennis although I don’t know why. It’s amazing. I like grass. And I like to play with slice and volley. So, I’m really happy. It was very emotional after the first round against Serena, and now I’m just playing match by match.”

Nadal saves his best tennis for Sonego

Two-time (2008, 2010) Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal needed just two hours and four minutes to wrap up his place in Monday’s fourth round after beating No. 27 seed Lorenzo Sonego of Italy, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. It was his 308th career Grand Slam singles victory.

The World No. 4 and second seed from Spain gave his best all-court performance of the week and it delighted the crowd who filled Centre Court. The 36-year-old Nadal won 78 percent (35 of 45) of his first-serve points, controlled the net by winning 20 of 28 attempts, nailed 24 winners and outpointed Sonego 80-54.

“It was probably my best match without a doubt here at The Championships against the most difficult player I have faced yet,” Nadal explained during his on-court interview. “I was able to raise my level, so I am super happy for that. I wish Lorenzo all the very best for the rest of the season.”

Nadal’s third-round victory lifted him to within four wins of achieving his 23rd career Grand Slam singles title. Next, Nadal will play No. 29 seed Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands. The Dutchman advanced with a 7-5, 2-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1 victory over France’s No. 69 Richard Gasquet, who reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2007 and 2015.

Van de Zandschulp fired 20 aces and struck 67 winners in outpointing Gasquet 133-115 during their two-hour and 38-minute match on No. 2 Court. Along with unseeded Tim van Rijthoven, the Netherlands has advanced two players into the round of 16 for the first time in 20 years.

Brit-watch: De Minaur battles past fighter Broady

Alex de Minaur seemed a bit apologetic toward the partisan British crowd after his 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 victory over 132nd-ranked wild card Liam Broady of Great Britain on No. 1 Court to reach the fourth round. After all, Broady was the second British player in a row the No. 19 seed de Minaur had beaten, following his second-round win over Jack Draper.

After de Minaur jumped out to a set-set lead, Broady made a battle of it and the third set lasted 72 minutes before the Australian pulled out the victory on his third match point to become the second Aussie (after Jason Kubler became the first 15 minutes earlier) to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon since 2016. It was the 28-year-old Broady’s first time to reach the third round at Wimbledon and the Stockport native left the court to tremendous applause.

“I’m just relieved,” de Minaur said during his on-court interview. “It was definitely harder at the end there than I wanted it to be, but at the end of the day this is tennis and anything can happen. Nerves playing in front of an amazing crowd, [on] an amazing court against a Brit, so it’s never easy. More than anything, [I’m] just relieved to be in the second week of Wimbledon.”

Next, the World No. 27 de Minaur will face No. 43 Cristian Garin. The Colombian reached the fourth round at Wimbledon for the second time with his 6-2, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 upset No. 29 seed Jenson Brooksby of the United States that extended to two hours and 51 minutes on No. 3 Court. Garin won 30 of 46 points at the net to go with 47 total winners, which offset 55 unforced errors. Garin outpointed Brooksby 114-103.

Around the All England Club

• No. 4 seed Paula Badosa of Spain knocked out two-time (2011, 2014) Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, 7-5, 7-6 (4), on Centre Court to advance against another former Wimbledon titlist, Simona Halep. At stake Monday will be a quarterfinal berth. In their only previous head-to-head meeting, Halep beat Badosa, 6-3, 6-1, on clay in Madrid earlier this season.

Against Kvitova, who won a title on grass in Eastbourne last weekend and had won seven straight matches, the 24-year-old Badosa in her third Wimbledon garnered her biggest grass-court victory. Now, after withstanding 34 winners from Kvitova while hitting 16 of her own to just 11 unforced errors, Badosa is into the round of 16 for the second straight year. She saved 10 of 11 break points she faced and outpointed Kvitova 98-89.

“As you know, Petra is a champion and for me one of the biggest challenges is to play Petra on grass – and today, being able to play against her was already a pleasure,” Badosa said in her on-court interview that followed her victory. “You can imagine how I feel after this win; for me it’s unbelievable.

“I remember 2014, I came here to play juniors and one of the first matches I watched was on Centre Court, her, Petra winning Wimbledon.

“So, you can imagine for me, stepping on Centre Court for the first time playing against a legend like her is really, really special. She’s been an inspiration for me in my career.”

Meanwhile, the 2019 Wimbledon champion Halep sprinted to an easy 6-4, 6-1 third-round victory over No. 92 Magdalena Frech of Poland in 67 minutes on No. 2 Court. Halep also beat Frech at this year’s Australian Open. The World No. 18 from Romania hit 24 winners and outpointed her opponent 57-39.

• No. 11 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States moved into the fourth round with an impressive 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (3) win over No. 51 Alex Molcan of Slovakia in an hour and 40 minutes on No. 3 Court.

The World No. 14 Fritz, who has won titles this year at Indian Wells and Eastbourne, hit 20 aces and won 86 percent (50 of 58) of his first-serve points. He struck 41 winners to just 18 unforced errors, converted five of eight break points and outpointed Molcan 99-69, controlling the match from the outset.

“I’m really happy; I played an amazing match the whole time,” Fritz said in his on-court interview. “Serving out, honestly – I played fine that game. He was. Kind of just picking sides on my serve and he was picking the right sides in the last game. So, I just had to regroup and play a really solid tie-break. And I did.

“I started this year really well and then I had some injuries. So, I wasn’t feeling great. Then, the title last week at Eastbourne really just did so much for my confidence and now I’m feeling really good again this tournament.”

Next, Fritz will face 99th-ranked Australian qualifier Jason Kubler, who needed four hours and 15 minutes to beat Jack Sock of the United States, 6-2, 4-6, 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-3, on Court 18. The 103rd-ranked American qualifier had won five straight matches (three in qualifying, two in the main draw) to reach the third round. Kubler overcame Sock’s offensive onslaught of 23 aces and 66 winners by hitting 57 winners of his own. Points were even at 162.

• No. 80 Petra Martic of Croatia upset No. 8 seed Jessica Pegula of the United States, 6-2, 7-6 (5) to move into the round of 16 at Wimbledon for the third time. It was her second win over a seeded American after earlier defeating No. 30 seed Shelby Rogers. It was also Martic’s second Top-10 win of the season. Next, she will play No. 17 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who was a 7-6 (4), 7-5 winner over No. 52 Zheng Qinwen of China. With seven aces, Rybakina now has a WTA-leading 191 for the 2022 season.

• No. 56 Brandon Nakashima of the United States advanced with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Colombia’s Daniel Elahi Galan on Court 12. Nakashima hit 21 winners and outpointed the 109th-ranked Elahi Galan 99-69.

• Defending men’s doubles champions Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, both from Croatia, advanced to the round of 16 with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over American duo Nick Monroe and Tommy Paul. The No. 2 seeds outpointed their opponents 118-90.

Also, No. 1 seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain advanced with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Fabrice Martin of France and Hugo Nys of Monaco.

• Women’s doubles No. 1 seeds Elise Mertens of Belgium and Zhang Shuai of China advanced to the round of 16 with a 74-minute, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland and Camila Osorio of Colombia.

Saturday’s Wimbledon results

Sunday’s Wimbledon order of play

By the numbers

• With her third-round victory Saturday, it marked the first time that Harmony Tan has strung together three consecutive tour-level wins. She began the Championships with only nine WTA tour-level main-draw wins. Her only grass-court main-draw win was in a 125K event in Gaiba, Italy, last month.

• Suddenly, with Saturday’s victories by Alizé Cornet and Harmony Tan, this year’s Wimbledon women’s tournament has a French accent to it. Besides Cornet and Tan, Caroline Garcia is also through to the round of 16.

• Four American men are into the round of 16 for the first time since 1999 – and they’re young – all under 26 years-old: Frances Tiafoe, 24; Tommy Paul, 25; Taylor Fritz, 24; Brandon Nakashima, 20.

“Quotable …”

“It’s incredibly special. Wimbledon in itself is such a special tournament, so to be able to come and play here, it’s a true honor. I’m just enjoying every second I can on the grass and trying to ride this wave.”

– No. 19 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia, during his on-court interview after winning his third-round match over Liam Broady on Saturday.

“I’m more comfortable to move on grass right now. … Every training, every match that I play … I feel more comfortable, and hope in the next round [that I will] feel more comfortable. Every day that [passes], I feel more ready on grass.”

– No. 5 seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, during his on-court interview following his second-round victory over Oscar Otte on Friday.