Thursday July 18, 2024

‘Emotional’ Cornet ends career after record 69th straight Grand Slam

May 29, 2024
Alize Cornet gesutures at a tennis court. — AFP/file
Alize Cornet gesutures at a tennis court. — AFP/file 

PARIS: Frenchwoman Alize Cornet´s career ended on Tuesday after her record-extending 69th consecutive Grand Slam appearance at the French Open, the tournament where she made her debut aged 15 and was once a ball girl.

Cornet was no match for China´s Australian Open runner-up Zheng Qinwen on Court Philippe Chatrier in the first round, losing 6-2, 6-1. She made her debut at Roland Garros in 2005 and has not missed a Grand Slam tournament since the 2006 US Open.

The 34-year-old´s run of consecutive appearances at the majors smashed the previous women´s record of 62 set by Japan´s Ai Sugiyama. “Emotionally it was not easy,” said Cornet on her decision to retire after a 20-year professional career.

“Some days I was really excited about retirement and some other days I was very scared and very uncertain. So overall, I feel in peace today about it, and so I´m very happy about that decision.”

Cornet reached a career-high ranking of 11th in 2009 and enjoyed a surprise run to the 2022 Australian Open quarter-finals, beating Simona Halep along the way.

Cornet´s career will also be remembered for a run of three successive wins over Serena Williams in 2014 -- including dumping the 23-time Grand Slam champion out of Wimbledon in the third round. “The quarter-finals in Australia was the source of a lot of emotions,” she said on making the last eight at a Slam for the first time at the 63rd attempt.

“My win over Serena was strong, intense, it was a source of great joy. But the quarter-finals -- I had been running after this quarter-final for such a long time, and also winning against Simona Halep with that heat, well, it was overwhelming.

“I think I will remember that.” Cornet ended her career on home soil with a 20th French Open appearance. She was also a ball girl at the tournament as a child, including for a match featuring former world number one Amelie Mauresmo, now the tournament director who presented her with an award on Tuesday.

“It was wonderful,” she said of being a ball girl. “It was a first experience where I was close to the players. When I think back now, Amelie Mauresmo is handing me the end-of-career trophy, and she´s been there all the time. I think about all the journey behind me.” Cornet´s only previous meeting with Zheng was when she retired injured during their third-round match in Paris two years ago while trailing 6-0, 3-0.