AO 2022 Day 8: Cornet and Kanepi steal the show

 - Alex Sharp

Game, Set, Spectacular. The quarter-finals line-ups are locked in at Melbourne Park.

Alizé Cornet / Australian Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Over the crest, Australian Open 2022 is well and truly hitting the business end. 

Some scintillating tennis matched the scorching day at Melbourne park. 

Here are the key headlines to catch up on the play Down Under. 

Cornet’s dream finally comes true

“It’s never too late to try again” 

Back at AO 2009 Alize Cornet held two match points against Dinara Safina in the fourth round but her advantage was erased for a “painful” defeat. 

13 years on the 32-year-old (suggesting it could be her last season) booked a maiden Grand Slam quarter-final in her 17th Australian Open and 60th consecutive Slam appearance. 

The Frenchwoman sunk to her knees after a blazing 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 battle with former world No.1 Simona Halep.  

Cornet, who has competed in every major since the start of 2007, had lost all five previous Grand Slam fourth round encounters, but not on Monday in Melbourne.  

Evidently in form, having dispatched two-time major winner Garbine Muguruza and Roland-Garros semi-finalist Tamara Zidansek (from a a set and 1-4 down) Cornet continued in that vein on Rod Laver Arena. 

The world No.61 was in charge a set and a break up before an archetypal Halep fightback. The 2018 finalist rattled through the last 16 points of the second set to force a compelling decider.  

A darted backhand down the line secured the crucial break at 3-3, before Halep saved two match points down 3-5. The narrative wasn’t going to follow 2009, Cornet was moving on. 

“It feels amazing. The battle that we had with Simona today with this heat and after 30 minutes of game we were both dying on the court and we kept going for two and a half hour with all our heart ,” said an emotional Cornet. “To go to my first quarter-final is just a dream come true. 

“That's why I keep playing tennis. It's for this moment where I can share all these emotions on the court with you (the crowd) and while the journey goes on, I still can't believe it.” 

It will be a fiery last eight duel as Cornet will take on 27th seed Danielle Collins. The American advanced 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 over Elise Mertens.

Medvedev doesn’t melt

The frustrations nearly boiled over for world No.2 Daniil Medvedev, but the Russian managed to steal the vital points 6-2, 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 7-5 to halt the serve and volley might of American Maxime Cressy.

The world No.70 made 135 forays to the net (taking the points 89 times) to keep Medvedev off balance and on the run.

The gripping clash looked destined for a fifth set, before 2021 finalist Medvedev ripped a rocket forehand down the line for a telling break at 5-5 in the fourth set.

“He definitely disrupted my rhythm, I was quite mad today because of few things,” admitted the US Open champion. “I'm working on myself, and that's why I managed to win and still kept my composure, as much as I could, because sometimes I go much more crazier than I did today.”

Medvedev will go toe-to-toe with Felix Auger-Aliassime in a US Open semi-final rematch, which the Russian won in straight sets.

“Fantastic day at the office,” Tweeted Auger-Aliassime, fighting back 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-2, 7-6(4) to down 2018 finalist Marin Cilic.

“I can try to mix up things as much as I want. The reality is he's almost the best player in the world now. He's the champion here,” stated the world No.9 ahead of tackling Medvedev. “I need to play a great match. I need to be able to give a great effort both mentally and physically to go through.”

Felix Auger-Aliassime / Australian Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Match of the day

Nothing quite compares to the drama which unfolded striking midnight in Melbourne.

Kaia Kanepi, who prior to returning to Melbourne hadn’t won back to back Tour-level matches since competing at AO 2021, stunned world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka to complete her set of Grand Slam quarter-finals.

The world No.115 had four match points erased serving for the victory at 5-4 in the nail-biting decider, then celebrated the milestone win a point too early, to close out the 5-7, 6-2, 7-6[10-7] epic.

“Actually I thought I was going to lose it after the match points I had on my serve. It was really difficult to come back. I don’t know how I managed to do it,” said the exhausted Estonian.

“Australian Open was the only quarterfinal Grand Slam that I'm missing. My age. I didn't actually believe I will do it. I’m really happy.”

World No.9 Iga Swiatek awaits in the last eight. The 2020 Roland-Garros champion hailed her mental fortitude to come through a “stressful” 5-7,6-3, 6-3 duel with Sorana Cirstea.

The 20-year-old has now ventured into the second week at every major since her Grand Slam triumph on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

“I'm pretty proud of that. That was my goal for last year, to stay consistent. Right now, I can continue that with adding more different goals,” stated Swiatek.

“I'm always pumped up for Grand Slams, I know I should treat every match the same way, but when I come in a Grand Slam, I feel different atmosphere and I feel different vibe, so it's always really important for me.”

Tsitsipas and Sinner strike

World No.4 Stefanos Tsitsipas kept his title challenge intact, but only just.

The 23-year-old went the distance 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 over 20th seeded American Taylor Fritz.

“It was a great comeback,” declared the 2021 semi-finalist. “It was a match with a lot of emotions, and I had to keep constantly reminding myself to stay in it and try and find solutions to all these problems, because there was heavy hitting, there was lots of rallies, big serves from both sides. So, there was a lot of things going on.”

The Greek talisman survives to take on 11th seed Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals. The Italian continues to fly under the radar, despite an impressive 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-4 scoreline to dismiss Australian hope Alex de Minaur..