MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Alize Cornet has finally reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament at her 63rd attempt.
The 32-year-old Cornet survived a second-set meltdown to advance to the last eight at the Australian Open with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win over two-time major winner Simona Halep.
“It’s never too late to try again!” Cornet said in her on-court TV interview. “To be in my first quarterfinal. 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 to send the match to a decider.
Halep saved two match points on her serve in the ninth game before Cornet clinched the match in the 10th. She dropped to her knees on the court and clasped her hands together, putting them over her face before looking into the stadium at her support team.
“It feels amazing,” Cornet said. “The battle we had with Simone, with this heat. After 30 minutes, we were dying.”
Cornet will next play Danielle Collins, who beat 19th-seeded Elise Mertens 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.in an almost three-hour match to open play on Rod Laver Arena. Collins was a semifinalist in Australia in 2019.
Cornet has never made it past the fourth round since making her Grand Slam singles debut as a wild-card entry at the 2005 French Open. This is her 17th campaign at the Australian Open.
Both women’s matches on Day 8 were played in temperatures up to 34 Celsius (93 F). Cornet used bags of ice to cool down her head during changeovers, and draped cold towels over her neck.
“I just stopped thinking after . . . 30 minutes of playing. My brain was already like, overloaded,” Cornet said. “My vision was not clear anymore. My hands were shaking.”
But, she added, “I thought, on the other side of the court, she was not feeling much better than me.”
Cornet, playing in her 60th Grand Slam tournament in a row, was 0-5 in fourth-round matches at the majors before Monday.
Her victory over Halep, a former Wimbledon and French Open champion and runner-up in Australia, gave her a record for most appearances at a major before reaching the last eight. Tamarine Tanasugarn previously held the mark at 45, set at Wimbledon in 2008.
Cornet had to do the hard way, too. Cornet beat third-seeded Garbiñe Muguruza in straight sets in the second round but had to rally from 6-4, 4-1 down to beat 2021 French Open semifinalist Tamara Zidansek in a 2-hour, 43-minute third-round win.
Collins hasn’t had a straight-forward path, either, having to rally from a set down to win back-to-back matches at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.
The 28-year-old American also dropped the first set in her third-round win over Clara Tauson.
“Today it was really physically tough for me,” Collins said. “I played a long match the other day — 2 1/2 hours — and then I played doubles, so I spent about five hours on court.
“I had to make a lot of technical adjustments to make myself comfortable moving around, especially serving.”
Collins was aggressive with her ground strokes, hitting 45 winners and and making 41 errors against Mertens. She converted five of her 18 break-point chances and clinched the victory when Mertens, a semifinalist in Australia in 2018, served a double-fault.
In fourth-round men’s matches later Monday, U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev was playing Maxime Cressy, fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas was scheduled to play No. 20 Taylor Fritz and 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic was against ninth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime.