Alize Cornet has secured a stunning upset over Garbine Muguruza, sending the third seed packing with a comprehensive 6-3 6-3 victory that took just one hour and 27 minutes.
The pair went into the match after splitting their four previous battles, with Cornet triumphant in their last meeting on grass in Berlin in June 2021.
The fearless Frenchwoman arrived on Rod Laver Arena with a clear goal – to dictate play, which she did almost immediately.
In her opening service game, Muguruza successfully fended off a trio of break points before placing an untimely double fault to hand Cornet a 2-0 lead.
Armed with confidence, France’s top-ranked female, ranked 61st in the world, attacked the Muguruza serve, landing winners off both wings. The 2020 Australian Open finalist dug herself out of a 0-40 hole, making her presence known on the scoreboard in the fourth game.
With coach and countrywoman Conchita Martinez in her corner, Muguruza again withstood an onslaught of deep groundstrokes from Cornet, seeing off a break point to hold for 2-4.
The two-time major champion highlighted her mental fortitude, saving two set points to force Cornet to serve out the opener. The 31-year-old rose to the occasion, drawing Muguruza to the net with a drop shot before whipping a gasp-inducing forehand winner on her way to claiming the set.
Cornet, a fixture in the third round at Melbourne Park on five prior occasions, kept finding her targets within the court’s white lines, zipping winners past Muguruza as the 28-year-old continued to charge the net despite mixed success.
The Frenchwoman extended her dominance, breaking her for a 3-2 lead with yet another forehand pass. Muguruza, displeased with her inability to insert herself further into the battle, almost smashed her racket in the eighth game, before stopping herself.
Serving to stay in the match, the Spaniard made two double faults before sailing a forehand behind the baseline as the vocal Cornet celebrated in delight.
“I feel amazing, I think I played a good match out there today,” Cornet said. “My state of mind was perfect… I felt like [I was] in a bubble.”
“It’s a tough day,” said a disappointed Muguruza. “My serve wasn’t there, I think my shots weren’t there also; tactically I think I wasn’t [making] the right decisions either.
“My shots weren’t as accurate and precise; I feel also my aggressive game wasn’t that aggressive today.”
The world No.3 credited Cornet’s solid performance.
“I think she plays better when she’s playing against top players,” added Muguruza, whose loss marked the Frenchwoman’s 10th career victory over a player ranked within the top five.
Cornet made just 16 unforced errors – less than half her opponent’s 33.
“I’m really happy [with] the way I played,” said Cornet. “[In] two days it’s my birthday; I think this is the best gift I can give to myself!
“I think all this experience that I have today definitely helped me on the court. I’m a perfectionist. Right now, I just want to enjoy it… I really hope the journey is going to go even further for me.”
Waiting for Cornet in the round of 32 will be either Slovenian 29th seed Tamara Zidansek or Britain’s Heather Watson.
“When I saw the draw, I just stopped at Garbine,” laughed Cornet, admitting she did not know the identity of her potential next opponent.
As well as her immediate AO22 focus, the Frenchwoman is debating whether this season will be her last – which, with some logic, is enabling her to play more freely.
“I was like, you know what, just enjoy the moment because you don’t know if you’re going to come back.”
Cornet, well aware she’s the only active player with an Open Era record of 60 consecutive Grand Slam main draw appearances, is aiming to surpass the now-retired Francesca Schiavone and Ai Sugiyama, who sit at 61 and 62 respectively.
“After that, I think it will be a good time for me to retire.”
Source: Gillian Tan