AUCKLAND, New Zealand - World No.57 Alize Cornet completed the biggest upset of the ASB Classic so far after coming back from a set down against No.2 seed Petra Martic to book her first quarterfinal spot of the year.
Playing in Auckland for the first time since 2012, Cornet was dealt a tough draw in her first tournament of the year. She had to battle past lucky loser Ysaline Bonaventure from a set down in the previous round, and then found herself locked into another three-setter against good friend Martic.
“I do feel very tired [after back-to-back three-setters], but I guess it’s part of the game when you’re playing your first matches of the season,” Cornet told press afterwards. “You never know what to expect.
“There was definitely two marathon matches, yesterday and today, but probably even tougher today because Petra is such a tough opponent. Her level is so high, and she plays amazing. I had to play even better than yesterday, and I did, and I’m so proud because I lost the first set and that was not easy, but I came out of my comfort zone. I did a lot of stuff that I’m proud of today.”
It was the pair’s first meeting since 2010, and the first since Cornet hired on Martic’s former coach, Sandra Zanieswka, during the off-season.
“That was not easy for me, definitely, but I guess that was not easy for her either,” Cornet admitted. “You know, she used to work with my coach now, so that was really weird overall. But I think we did a pretty good job out there. We played a great match with big intensity.”
Ranked at a career high of No.15 in the world, Martic arrived in Auckland after a breakthrough season saw her reach the French Open quarterfinals for the first time, as well as lift the trophy in Istanbul. She found consistency at the highest level, too, reaching the final in Zhengzhou, semifinals in Charleston and Birmingham, and quarterfinals in Madrid and Wuhan.
She couldn’t keep up the momentum against Cornet, who struck 22 winners to Martic’s 13, and converted two of five break points she created. Cornet struck three aces - all during the final game as she served for the match.
But it was Martic who was in control from the start of the match: the Croatian player was punishing the Cornet serve, creating four break chances in her opponent’s first three service games. Martic finally broke through at 4-3, and reeled off the last four games in a row to take the opening set.
Dropping the first set seemed to wake Cornet to life, and she settled into the match as Martic seemed to ease up. Just one break of serve made the difference for Cornet, earning her first break of the match at 3-2, then serving out the set to bring up a decider.
Cornet reeled off the first two games of the final set to open with a 2-0 lead. She had to fight off a late challenge as Martic tried to fight her way back, consolidating to 4-2. The Frenchwoman served out the match with confidence, sealing the victory with an ace, her third in a row - as well as a hug at the net for her good friend.
“I guess it just happened to be the best time to do my first aces of the match!” Cornet laughed. “But three in a row? Come on! I don’t even know how it happened.”
Into the quarterfinals in Auckland, Cornet will take on American player Jessica Pegula in her next match. The American took down Tamara Zidansek 6-2, 6-3 in just over an hour to advance.
“We played each other a few months ago at the US Open, first round,” Cornet said. “I won this match in two sets, and it was not easy but I played a really solid match. So I know what to expect, and I guess she knows what to expect too.”