MELBOURNE, Australia ( Associated Press) – Elise Cornet fell to her knees on a hard blue court, grabbed her hands and took a few moments to let her sink.
On his 17th visit to the Australia Open, his 63rd run at a Grand Slam, and two days after celebrating his 32nd birthday, Cornet finally qualified for the quarter-finals in one of tennis’s four major events.
Cornet recovered from a second-set slump in sunny Melbourne on Monday and reached the last eight of the Australian Open with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory over two-time major champion Simona Halep.
“It’s never too late to try again!” Cornett said in his on-court TV interview. “To be in my first quarterfinal. It’s a dream come true.
“The journey continues. I still can’t believe it.”
Cornet went on to lead a set and 3–1 losing five games in a row and 16 straight points as Halep made the match decisive.
The match was 2–2 in the third set when Cornet held a service game in love, which he said “ales” after every shot.
Halep got a break-point opportunity two games later with a forehand that caught outside the paint and which Cornet could barely believe. She saved it and held the serve, then broke Halep’s serve for a 4–3 lead that set her on course for the quarter-finals.
Cornet will now play United States number 27 Daniel Collins, who defeated 19th seed Ellis Mertens 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in an almost three-hour match to play at Rod Laver Arena. Collins was a semifinalist in Australia in 2019.
Cornet made her Grand Slam singles debut at the 2005 French Open as a wild-card entry. She had lost in the last five fourth rounds, but had come close to reaching the quarter-finals before, losing to eventual runner-up Dinara Safina before being match points in the fourth round in Australia in 2009.
With a ranking of 61 – 50 less than her career-high number 11 – Cornet came into the 2022 season acknowledging that retirement must be near and that it was now or never the key to Grand Slam success.
“I don’t know if it’s helping,” she said. “I just told myself that if it should happen, it will happen. Maybe leave it in the hands of fate, fate, I don’t know.”
The marquee men’s match was at the Margaret Court Arena, where US Open champion Daniil Medvedev defeated 70th-ranked Maxim Crecy 6-2, 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 7-5.
Second-placed Medvedev is looking to become the first man to win his second major singles title at the next Grand Slam event in the Open era. He now has three wins from potentially achieving it.
Medvedev finished runner-up in Australia last year, but avenged a win over Novak Djokovic in the final of the US Open. Djokovic is not defending his Australian Open title after being relegated on the eve of the first major of the year for failing to meet the country’s strict COVID-19 vaccination criteria.
Cersei’s serve and volley style caused some disappointment for Medvedev, who said late in the fourth set that it was “the most unlucky day I’ve ever had in my life.” His luck changed rapidly. After saving eight break-point chances in the set, Cersei broke in that game and was served by Medvedev lovingly.
“Hell of a match,” said Medvedev.
He will now face ninth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliasime, who defeated 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic 2-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2, 7-6 (4). Medvedev defeated Canada in the semi-finals of the US Open last year.
On Day 8 the temperature peaked at 34 °C (93 °F), allowing players an extra break to deal with the heat.
Cornet used ice bags to cool his head during the changeover, and draped cold towels around his neck.
“I stopped thinking after playing 30 minutes. My brain was already overloaded,” said Cornet. “My vision was no longer clear. My hands were trembling.”
But, she adds, “I thought, on the other side of the court, she didn’t feel better than me.”
His win over Halep, a former Wimbledon and French Open champion and runner-up in Australia, set the record for most appearances in a Major before reaching the quarter-finals. Tamarin Tanasugarn had previously scored on set 45 at Wimbledon in 2008.
Cornet also had to do it the hard way. She defeated third-seeded Garbine Muguruza in straight sets in the second round, but pulled out 6-4, 4-1 to beat 2021 French Open semifinalist Tamara Zidansek in the third round.
Collins didn’t have a straight-forward path to winning back-to-back matches at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time, either by rallying from the set-down.
The 28-year-old American also dropped the first set in a third-round win over Clara Towson.
Against Mertens, Collins was on the offensive with his ground strokes, hitting 45 winners and making 41 errors. He converted five of his 18 break-point chances and won when semifinalist Mertens double-faulted in Australia in 2018.
“Today it was really hard for me physically,” 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 the court.”
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