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"Why not me?": Alizé Cornet’s belief, experience, and varied repertoire left Iga Swiatek confused in bringing the Pole's win streak to an end at Wimbledon
“I thought that here was the best chance for me to do it. Maybe it was her less good surface,” the 32-year-old said after ousting the world No. 1, 6-4, 6-2, in the third round on Saturday.
Published Jul 02, 2022
PRESS CONFERENCE: Swiatek reacts to first defeat since February
When Alizé Cornet saw that she was in the same section of the draw as top seed Iga Swiatek, a refrain began to run through the Frenchwoman’s head:
“Why not me?”
“I kept telling myself, well, the streak,” Cornet said, referring to Swiatek’s consecutive win streak, which began in February and would reach 37 matches. “I was telling myself someone would have to break the streak eventually, and why not me?”
“I thought that here was the best chance for me to do it. Maybe it was her less good surface.”
At 32, Cornet had quite a bit of experience on grass, though not a ton of success at Wimbledon; she was just 13-14 there before today. But one of those wins alone was enough to make her think she could beat the best player in the world: She had done the same thing, on the same court, in the same round, against Serena Williams in 2014.
“The belief was there since the beginning.”
Just as important as belief, Cornet had a varied repertoire of shots that she could throw Swiatek’s way. A slender 5-foot-8, she doesn’t generate much power of her own; in this match, she would hit just one ace, and she had five fewer winners than Swiatek. But Cornet can do everything else, and she showed off all of those skills on Saturday.
Cornet scrambled across the baseline, and forced Swiatek to hit three, four, and five high-risk shots to win a point; her defensive lobs floated perfectly into the far corners of the court and neutralized the rallies. Cornet changed paces and spins and won points with drop shots and drop volleys. But she didn’t just use finesse; on several key points, she reflexed back winning returns. Cornet converted five of six break points, and made just seven unforced errors.
“I think I’m a little more relaxed when I’m the underdog,” Cornet said after her 6-4, 6-2 win. “I think I have nothing to lose, and that’s where I have nothing to lose that I’m the most dangerous. I play my shots, like, more relaxed, I hit better from the baseline.”
“I don’t know, I don’t have any parasite in my thoughts.”
Perhaps more surprising than Cornet’s high level was the strange sense of resignation that seemed to come over Swiatek as the match progressed. After losing the first set, she broke for 2-0 in the second, and had a point to go up 3-0. It seemed only a matter of time before Swiatek would control of the rallies, and the match would be leveled at one-set apiece. Instead, she lost the next six games. In recent matches where she was pushed, Swiatek reacted angrily, talked to her coaches, berated herself. There was none of that today. When she shanked an overhead into the back wall in the middle of the second set, she smiled.
Swiatek said she hadn’t felt great about her grass-court game all week.
“I know how I felt before matches, I know how I felt when I was practicing,” she said. “Let’s just say that I didn’t feel like I’m in a best shape.”
“Maybe it’s not the best attitude to have, but it is like it is.”
I thought that here was the best chance for me to do it. Maybe it was her less good surface. —Cornet
Swiatek attributed her poor performance against Cornet to tactical confusion. She had spent the last six months playing with maximum aggression; when that finally didn’t work, and her shots finally didn’t find the court, she didn’t have a back-up plan.
“The thing that I changed this season is I started being more and more aggressive,” she said. “It was really comfortable for me to have the initiative and be proactive. But here I couldn’t control the ball.”
Swiatek tried to slow things down and stay consistent, but found that she couldn’t rev up the winners again when she needed them. When she went big, she came back with errors instead.
“When you play aggressively and you suddenly change the way you play, it’s not easy to keep that,” she said. “Yeah, so I got a little bit confused.”
As Cornet said, the streak was going to end at some point, and Swiatek was going to have an off day. It’s amazing, considering how much risk she’s been taking on in her game, that it didn’t happen sooner.
For all of Cornet’s pre-match belief, she was still shocked by what she had pulled off.
“I mean, what she’s done this year is out of this world, and I can't believe I'm the one that actually broke the streak,” said Cornet, who will play Ajla Tomljanovic in the fourth round.
She broke the streak, and blew a hole in the draw. Now Cornet will join the mad race for what seemed likely to be Swiatek’s title in the second week.