Alizé Cornet has always had a flair for the dramatic. The 32-year-old Frenchwoman came into the Australian Open, her 63rd Slam main-draw, wondering if this might be her final season. One week later, she's into her first Slam quarterfinal, the most appearances by anyone before reaching this stage of a major.
She did it by defeating two in-form former No.1s in Garbiñe Muguruza and Simona Halep, and rallying from a set and 4-1 down - on her birthday, no less - to overcome 2021 Roland Garros semifinalist Tamara Zidansek. She capped off her latest win Monday with one of the an emotional on-court post-match interview.
"It's never too late to try again," she said.
Cornet became the first Frenchwoman to advance to the Australian Open quarterfinals since 2009 by defeating Halep 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in a physical two-and-a-half-hour grind.
Nothing has ever come easy to the affable Cornet, who reached a career-high No.11 in 2009. That doesn't bother her.
"I can't hide my true nature," Cornet said, laughing. "If I'm a drama queen for the people, then I am.
"What I know is that I give everything I have on the court, and I think that's why sometimes there is drama, because when you play against a player like Halep who does the same as you, which is not letting go a single point, fighting and grinding, I mean, this makes drama by definition.
"But yeah, that's who I am. I think people want to see truth on the court, and honesty I think that's what I am. So there is good side and bad side sometimes. Right now it's all about good side."
After Muguruza 6-3, 6-3 earlier in the tournament, Cornet revealed her ambitions for the season were to break the record for consecutive Grand Slam main-draw appearances. The Australian Open is her 60th straight major and she is on track to break the record at the US Open this fall. After that, Cornet said she would re-evaluate her future.
"I'm not closing any door to keep going," Cornet said. "But I gave so much to this game and to this tennis life. I feel I'm pretty much ready for the next chapter. At least by the end of the year, I think I'll be ready."
But after a good pre-season, Cornet said she came into the 2022 season with a clear headspace. That has translated on court and propelled her to achieve the one milestone she confessed she had, at times, been obsessed with.
Cornet made her Grand Slam debut at the 2005 French Open and her first Round of 16 came in Melbourne in 2009. Facing Dinara Safina for a spot in the quarterfinals, Cornet had match points but lost 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. She would go on to make four more Round of 16s but never came as close as she did at Melbourne Park 13 years ago.
"I'm not sure I believed I could do it anymore, and that's why it came to me," Cornet said. "I think that when you expect things the less that it happens, actually.
"I just kept working all these years, trying to find some fun playing tennis, and I just told myself that if it should happen, then it will happen. Maybe leave it in the hands of fate, destiny, I don't know.
"But what I know is that I always love tennis so much. That's what helped me to just keep playing."
Cornet insists the job is not finished. Her biggest challenge now will be to recover, both physically and emotionally, to face another fiery competitor in Danielle Collins.
"I'm not gonna stop now," Cornet said. "I'm still ambitious. I just have to soak it in, take time to appreciate the moment and be proud of what I did today. But definitely from tomorrow I will have to think about my next match and how I can go farther in the tournament.
"The sky's the limit. I really want to be ambitious on this Slam. For the first time of my life, I really believe I can go till the end. I think that's what makes a difference."