Cornet pens night-session classic

A published author, the Frenchwoman treated fans to the perfect ending in a tale full of twists and turns

Alize Cornet, Roland Garros 2022, second round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT
 - Stephanie Livaudais

Every good story follows a certain structure. The introduction is usually followed by a complication, the rising action then leads to the climax, before a reversal brings the reader to a tidy resolution.

Alize Cornet, two times a published author, knows this well. And on Thursday evening, the 32-year-old penned another classic in Paris.

Her three-set second-round victory over No.13 seed Jelena Ostapenko had it all: a fabulous setting under the lights on Court Philippe-Chatrier, the perfect foil in the 2017 champion across the net, and, most importantly, the perfect ending in a 6-0, 1-6, 6-3 victory in an hour and 43 minutes.

Story of the Match

This match-up between two of the WTA’s flashiest shot-makers was billed as popcorn viewing. In practice, it was more of a slow burn that needed two sets to really catch fire.

In the opening set, Cornet romped past the 24-year-old with lethal efficiency. She didn’t have to do much, just direct the ball back to Ostapenko and let the Latvian misfire. Cornet needed just 23 minutes to claim the set to love, allowing her opponent to win just eight points in total – one of those came from the Frenchwoman’s own unforced error.

Cornet has a long history with Roland-Garros, where she made her Grand Slam debut as a 15-year-old in 2005. She’d only ever reached the fourth round in 2015 and 2017, a trend she was determined to reverse.

She had already snapped a three-match losing streak coming into the tournament with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Misaki Doi in the first round. And after finally reaching her first Grand Slam quarter-final in 63 attempts at the Australian Open in January, Cornet is also trying to make it two in a row this fortnight on home soil.

But first, she’d have to get through Ostapenko, who threatened to derail the narrative. The 13th seed raised her level – and her first-serve percentage – to turn the tables in the second set.

Now, it was the Frenchwoman who was struggling to get on the scoreboard. By the time she managed to hold serve, she was already trailing 1-4 and was broken once again as Ostapenko claimed the set.

But the protagonist never gives up, and Cornet took back control of the match at the start of the third. This time, Ostapenko reacted to the 0-3 deficit with some booming forehand returns and reeled off the next two games, and suddenly we had the drama everyone on Chatrier had been waiting for.

Alize Cornet, Roland Garros 2022, second round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

The pair traded blows as Ostapenko tried to find more inroads into the Frenchwoman’s service games. With the fans urging her on, Cornet rallied after tweaking her upper thigh sliding into a forehand at 4-3. She didn’t face another break point, holding up under Ostapenko’s baseline scrutiny.

After an hour and 43 minutes, she put a period on the chapter and turned the page. Zheng Qinwen, the 19-year-old who ousted Simona Halep earlier in the day, awaits in the third round.

Key stats

Many of Ostapenko’s matches seem to be on her racquet, and this one was no different. In the opening set, the Latvian was being punished on serve: she didn’t win a single first-serve point, and was broken three times.

But in the second set, she won 92% (11/12) of first-serve points, and easily took control of the match against Cornet, who couldn’t create a break opportunity. With both players on more even footing in the third, the Frenchwoman was getting more returns in play and taking away that advantage.

For Cornet, the match was decided from the baseline. She fired 10 winners and made just five unforced errors, while Ostapenko barraged her with 26 winners. But Ostapenko undid her efforts with 48 unforced errors, which made up over half of the 80 points Cornet won during the match.