Indian Wells Notebook: Alizé's Miracle
Published March 10, 2014 12:12
INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - Lesson No.1 of a tennis tournament. When all eyes are swivelled towards the main stadium, centre court, whatever it may be called, there is bound to be a gem taking place elsewhere that is far more deserving of your attention.
The match on Stadium 4 between 14th seed Carla Suárez Navarro and Alizé Cornet, the 22nd seed, was not necessarily one of the day's must-sees. But, quite unsuspectingly, it proved to be an almost record-breaker that left both players trying to suck the oxygen out of the dry desert air.
Lasting three hours and 26 minutes, their first round heart-buster was two minutes shy of the longest match of the year to date, Maria Sharapova's three-hour-and-28-minute win over Karin Knapp in hot, hot Melbourne, and was in a way reminiscent of Francesca Schiavone's extraordinary win over Svetlana Kuznetsova in Melbourne three years ago.
They were both so addled by the physical effort to the extent that Cornet, the winner by a narrow 67(4) 75 63 margin, was almost too exhausted to celebrate afterwards, saying, "I was so tired I couldn't think and that's why I played my best tennis."
"I think it's fun right now, but on the court I don't think it's fun at all," Cornet told wtatennis.com. "I'm just exhausted by this match. There was such long rallies the whole match, and you know we were fighting really hard both of us."
Cornet has been in the limelight a little of late after defeating Serena Williams in the Dubai semifinals, and it was remembering a match like that that gave her what she needed to stave off three match points at 4-5, 0-40 in the second set.
"I think I'm ready for it. I did a lot of good practices in the off-season, and I'm ready to do a lot of matches like that," Cornet said.
By the time the third set came around, both players were lolling about in a daze, resorting to backwards lobs, digs, and all sorts of other creations that only seem like a good idea when you have nothing else left.
"She was about to cramp, I was about to feel really bad, and finally I held it a little bit better than her," Cornet said. "But there's no fun on court at this point, when you feel so much pain and the battle is getting so painful. It's just about winning, that's why we do this sport, it's about winning."
She has earned a day's rest before taking on a challenge that will require twice the endurance - Agnieszka Radwanska - in the third round. Particularly because Radwanska's progress to the third round was almost the polar opposite of Cornet's: 60 60.
"I did some good recovery, I went to the ice baths, I had lunch. I think this day off tomorrow will help me a lot," Cornet said.
"But I try to enjoy my victory right now."
She deserves to.
Alexandra Willis (@alex_willis) is a London-based tennis writer and editor, and manages the digital, social media and publications for Wimbledon, while also contributing to a variety of other outlets.