EASTBOURNE, Great Britain – Alizé Cornet surprised No.10 seed Elina Svitolina in the second round of the Nature Valley International with a 6-3, 7-6(3) victory.
It was a win that broke a four-match losing streak against the WTA World No.8 for the unseeded Cornet, who had not won back-to-back matches on Tour since reaching the third round in Miami back in March.
The Frenchwoman held an advantage of a set and a break overnight, when rain stopped play, and initially it seemed this delay would play into the Ukrainian’s hands as the complexion of the match switched.
“Yesterday was a very good day for me. I played a very good first set and broke at the beginning of the second, so I was in a really good position when the rain started to fall,” she said. “We had to sleep on it – and that’s never easy. You’re thinking about what could be done and what you could have done better.
“I was really trying to focus on the present moment. I played less well today, but I fought as hard as I could.
“Elina was playing a little better, so it got more balanced and at the end I got through.”
After a slow start, going 3-1 down in the opening set, Cornet was the dominant force on Monday, playing closer to the baseline and controlling the points, yet when the players emerged on an overcast lunchtime the roles were reversed.
Having been passive and rather lackluster previously, Svitolina began to strike the ball with the intensity of a Top 10 player and clawed back three successive games to hold a 4-3 lead.
A lapse in concentration, however, allowed Cornet to break and serve for the match, but at this point nerves seemed to dog the 29-year-old, who served two double faults and stopped swinging through her groundstrokes with the same purpose as she had previously mustered.
Svitolina, meanwhile, also seemed to suffer briefly from self doubt, which allowed Cornet to earn but squander a match point.
Considering what had passed in the previous 10 minutes, there followed two excellent holds to take the set to a tiebreak.
“I was just trying to think about the present moment and not much else,” Cornet replied when asked how she managed to muster such a strong response. “I just tried to do better on my next service game. It’s all about trying my best.”
Have been on the backfoot for much of the match since the morning’s resumption, she came to the fore by winning a fine opening rally to earn a minibreak. Although Svitolina worked hard to eradicate this, she found herself facing three match points after hitting the net with a volley and striking millimeters long on a touch shot.
Cornet sealed the match after another thrilling rally, chasing down a drop shot to send the ball beyond her opponent and into the open court, setting up a last-16 showdown with either Daria Gavrilova or Zhang Shuai.