Alize Cornet dropped to her knees on the hard blue court, clasped her hands and took a few moments to let it sink in.
On her 17th trip to the Australian Open, her 63rd run at a Grand Slam and two days after celebrating her 32nd birthday, Cornet finally qualified for the quarter-finals at one of the four majors.
Cornet yesterday recovered after a second-set meltdown in the hot Melbourne sun to advance to the last eight at the Australian Open with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win over two-time major champion Simona Halep.
“It’s never too late to try again,” Cornet said in her on-court TV interview. “To be in my first quarter-final. It’s a dream come true. The journey goes on. I still can’t believe it.”
Cornet led by a set and 3-1 before losing five consecutive games and 16 straight points as Halep took the match to a decider.
The match was 2-2 in the third set after Cornet held a service game at love.
Halep got a break point two games later with a forehand down the line that just caught the outside of the paint and which Cornet could barely believe.
She saved it and held serve, then broke Halep’s serve for a 4-3 lead that set her on course for the quarter-finals.
Cornet next faces Danielle Collins, the No. 27 seed from the US who beat 19th seed Elise Mertens 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in an almost three-hour match to open play on Rod Laver Arena.
Cornet made her main draw Grand Slam singles debut as a wild-card entry at the 2005 French Open. She lost five previous fourth-round appearances.
With a ranking of 61 — 50 lower than her career-high No. 11 — Cornet came into the season acknowledging retirement must be close and that it was now or never for a Grand Slam breakthrough.
“I don’t know if it’s helping,” she said. “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.”
In the night matches, 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek beat Sorana Cirstea 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 to move into a quarter-final against Kaia Kanepi, who ousted second seed Aryna Sabalenka 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (9/7).
The marquee men’s match was on Margaret Court Arena, where US Open champion Daniil Medvedev beat 70th-ranked Maxime Cressy 6-2, 7-6 (7/4), 6-7 (4/7), 7-5.
World No. 2 Medvedev is trying to become the first man in the Open era to win his second major singles title in the next Grand Slam event. He is now potentially three wins from achieving that.
Cressy’s serve-and-volley style created some frustrations for Medvedev, who said late in the fourth set that this was the “most unlucky day I’ve ever had in my life.”
His luck changed quickly.
After saving eight break points, Cressy was broken in that game and Medvedev served out at love.
He next faces ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, who beat 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic 2-6, 7-6 (9/7), 6-2, 7-6 (7/4).
No. 11 Jannik Sinner ended Australia’s last hope in the men’s singles when he beat No. 32 Alex de Minaur 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-4.
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