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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Tuesday, May 28, 2024


Tennis iron woman Alizé Cornet closed her career after bowing to Zheng Qinwen at Roland Garros in her 69th consecutive Grand Slam appearance.

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty

Alizé Cornet started her tennis career as a pick-up artist in Paris.

Today, tennis’ iron woman closed the curtain on her career with one last lift.

Cornet’s 6-2, 6-1 Roland Garros first-round loss to Australian Open finalist Zheng Qinwen was the last match of her illustrious career.

Contesting her WTA-record 69th consecutive Grand Slam event, Cornet was honored with a ceremony after her 20th—and final—French Open appearance.

The 34-year-old Frenchwoman concludes her career with 545 career victories, 6 career championships, a career-best ranking of No. 11 and more than $10 million in prize money.

Looking back on her career, Cornet said she draws more satisfaction from character development than championships.

Cornet values authenticity and tried to bring complete commitment and passion to every match she played.

“As far as my legacy is concerned, I'd like to be remembered as a genuine player who shared all her emotions with everyone all throughout her career with a fighting spirit, someone who is a passionate tennis player, who likes to fight and who could die for it,” Cornet told the media in Paris. “I think I showed it several times, that it was actually my type of character.

“People may love me or not for that type of personality, actually, but this is what brought me until here. I felt a lot of love from my colleagues, the other tennis players, and that's important, as well. Because what the public might see and what the tennis players showed me is also something else. That shows that I'm a loving character, that the other tennis players were also my friends and that they liked me very much.”

Today’s retirement ceremony was a full circle moment for Cornet. Hall of Famer and Roland Garros tournament director Amelie Mauresmo presented Cornet with a parting gift—a piece of the Roland Garros court cast in a clear reitrement trophy—a few decades after the young Cornet served as a ball girl for the event sharing the court with some superstars she would later face as a player.

“I was selected to take the balls during this tournament, and Amelie was playing there. There was Venus Williams, Patty Schnyder, Justine Henin,” Cornet recalled. “It was wonderful. It was a first experience where I was close to the players.

“And when I think about it, when I think back now, Amelie Mauresmo is handing me the end-of-career trophy, and she's been there all the time. I think about all the journey behind me. Often we just don't go back in time. We don't think about what's happened.”

Longevity is more than extended play, it’s a state of mind for Cornet, whose 69 consecutive major appearances broke the WTA’s previous longest Grand Slam streak held by Ai Sugiyama (62 straight Slams). The 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone played 61 straight majors.

Cornet often brought her best tennis against some of the game’s best players.

The Nice-born baseliner scored 25 career Top 10 victories, including a 2014 stunner over world No. 1 Serena Williams at Wimbledon, a 2017 Roland Garros triumph over Agnieszka Radwanska, a 2021 Wimbledon win over No. 7 Bianca Andreescu, a 2022 Australian Open sweep of world No. 3 Garbine Muguruza en route to her first and only Grand Slam quarterfinal in Melbourne.

Many fans may best remember Cornet for snapping world No. 1 Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak, 6-4, 6-2, at the 2022 Wimbledon.

“I’m like good wine. In France, good wine always ages well. That’s what happens with me," Cornet said after toppling Swiatek at SW19 to snap the longest women's winning streak since 1990.
That was Cornet’s fourth win over a reigning world No. 1, though she doesn’t regard it as her greatest moment on court.

Cornet calls her inspired Australian Open quarterfinal run at age 32 her career highlight.

"The quarterfinals in Australia was the source of a lot of emotions. My win on Serena was strong, intense, it was a source of great joy,” Cornet said. “But the quarterfinals I had been running after this quarterfinal for such a long time, and also winning against Simona Halep with this heat, well, it was overwhelming.

"I think I would remember that point. I was already 32 years old. It was a great highlight of my career. It was a beautiful, beautiful moment of my life.”

Critics sometimes cast Cornet as a “drama queen” for her habit of sometime taking medical timeouts and bathroom breaks during challenging matches—moves some opponents called straight-up gamesmanship.

At the 2016 Roland Garros, Cornet outlasted Tatjana Maria in three sets in a controversial match. Cornet’s antics angered Maria who believed the Frenchwoman sought and was given illegal treatment for cramping in that match that helped her turn it around.

Cornet denied that charge.

“I didn't understand so much why she was so mad at me,” Cornet said after that controversial match. “She even told me when we shake hands that she thought I was not fair play. I didn't choose to cramp at the end of the second set, and I didn't choose to have this pain in my leg, and I needed a treatment for that. I didn't take a treatment for my cramp because I know the rule, and I respect it.”

Despite the drama queen tag, Cornet gave it her all both in matches and frequently in post-match pressers where she earned respect for her honesty and candor.

When she's not busy hitting balls, Cornet is a page-turning presence.

Cornet moonlights as a novelist and concedes sometimes characters take her to unexpected places.

Scripting a moving farewell scene today, Cornet said she’s ready to start a new chapter as an author.

“Now it's a new chapter in my life. I'm reaching new horizons. So it's true that I'm writing,” Cornet said. “As an author, I have a backup plan ahead of me, but the lifestyle will change completely.

“That frightens me, because I have been working as a tennis player for 20 years. I need to find purpose again in my life. I need to plan ahead, to see and understand what I'm going to become. Again, I know that I can work on myself. I can work out a new state of mind.

"I am a resourceful person. I know that I will find new projects where I can blossom again. It might not be tennis. It will certainly not be the same emotions that I've had so far, but I know that I can be happy again somewhere else.”


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