MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Alize Cornet celebrated her 32nd birthday by staging a stunning comeback to reach the second week at the Australian Open on Saturday — 13 years after the Frenchwoman last made the fourth round at the Melbourne Park major.
The former world number 11 fought back from a set and a double-break down to beat 29th-seeded Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia 4-6 6-4 6-2 in two hours and 43 minutes at Margaret Court Arena.
Cornet, who has slipped to 61st in the rankings and has said the 2022 season could be her last on Tour, said she was moved after the crowd sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her.
“I have chills. I don’t realise it yet because first of all I’m super tired. I don’t realise what I just accomplished,” Cornet told reporters.
“It’s definitely a very, very special victory being back in the second week 13 years after my first second week at the Australian Open. It’s quite special. The day of my birthday, I mean, what else can I ask for?”
Playing in her 60th consecutive major, Cornet lost the opening set and found herself trailing 4-1 in the second but dug deep to win 11 of the last 13 games for the victory.
Another win would take her to a maiden quarter-final at a major. To do that she will have to get past multiple Grand Slam winner Simon Halep of Romania.
While Cornet may decide to call it a day after the season she said she has lost none of her passion for the game.
“I love the game as much as I used to. I’m passionate the same way. I’m still fighting like with all my heart,” said Cornet, who got into a verbal altercation with the umpire after getting a time violation.
“I just have more experience. Maybe I know how to handle a little bit better my emotions sometimes. Not all the time, would be too easy.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Peter Rutherford)