MELBOURNE, Australia -- No.19 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia collected a milestone victory in the second round of the Australian Open on Thursday with her 6-4, 6-2 defeat of France’s Alizé Cornet.
In her seven previous appearances at Melbourne, all coming over the last seven seasons, World No.20 Vekic had never advanced to the third round. The Croat had fallen in the second round four times, including in each of the last three years, and in her opening match three times. Vekic finally broke that duck with her 91-minute victory over Cornet.
"I think today I really stepped up," Vekic said after her win.
"There’s not really a reason I didn’t do so well here in the past," added the Croatian No.2. "I’ve been enjoying my time here this year, I got to play on two big courts, so I really enjoyed that."
Cornet had beaten Vekic in straight sets in their only prior meeting, a second-round clash at Monterrey in 2017. But Vekic continued her solid momentum off of her first-round win over former champion Maria Sharapova, and dispatched World No.61 Cornet with 38 winners to 24 unforced errors. Vekic broke Cornet five times and won nearly 80 percent of points off of her first serve.
"I knew it was not going to be any easier," Vekic stated. "Alizé is such a tricky opponent, she gets so many balls back, so I knew I could not relax, not even one bit. I had to stay focused."
After squeaking out a tough opening service game to hold for 1-1, Vekic then claimed an early lead, breaking Cornet at love and consolidating with consecutive backhand winners for 3-1. The Frenchwoman, though, utilized her tremendous guile, footspeed and variety of shot to claw the break back and level the set at 3-3.
Vekic, however, reclaimed her advantage in the following game, blasting a return winner on break point to go up a break once more at 4-3. The Croat found herself in trouble on serve in the following game after a double fault gave Cornet break point, but the chance was erased with a strong serve as Vekic eventually eased to 5-3.
Two games later, Vekic followed up a strong serve with a forehand winner to queue up triple set point. On the first, Cornet’s tremendous defensive skills extended a rally to its breaking point, but the Vekic power would win the battle, finally forcing a long error from the Frenchwoman to close out the opening frame.
Both players broke out the dropshot multiple times for the second set, but it was Vekic who cruised through the opening stages of that timeframe as she eased to a 4-1 double-break lead. Vekic handed one of those breaks back with a double fault in the next game, but Cornet did the exact same thing at 4-2, on Vekic’s fifth break point of that protracted game.
The Vekic groundstrokes would set up double match point at 5-2; Cornet saved one by slamming an overhead winner at the end of a rally, but Vekic took the second after a strong serve was returned long by the Frenchwoman.
Now into her first-ever Australian Open third-round match, Vekic will next face the winner of a match between two players at opposite ends of the career spectrum: former Top 10 star Carla Suárez Navarro of Spain, who is contesting her final Australian Open, or rising Polish teenager Iga Swiatek.