Thirty-two year old Alize Cornet of Nice, France upset former world #1 tennis player Simona Halep in the 4th. round of the 2022 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne to move her into the second week of a grand slam tournament, any grand slam tournament, for the first time in her life. She had played in 62 consecutive main draws in grand slam events but never made it past the 4th. round.
In sweltering 90+ degree heat against one of the most formidable opponents in women’s tennis today, Cornet defied herself and the oddsmakers by defeating Halep in a best two of three sets match. She was overcome by tears of joy, perhaps a generous helping of disbelief, and said in her interview following the match, “It’s never too late to try again.”
For Cornet, regardless of her results in the quarterfinals this year, the number 63 will always be her magic number.
Alize Cornet (Wikipedia image)
Should you be able to answer a quiz on who the following eight women in alphabetical order are: Ashleigh Barty, Danielle Collins, Alize Cornet, Kaia Kanepi, Madison Keys, Barbora Krejcikova, Jessica Pegula, Iga Swiatek. Only if you’re following the women’s singles matches in the 2022 Australian Open because these women are not household names; yet they survived the challenges of competing against the heat, their opponents and themselves to reach the quarterfinals in week #2 of the first grand slam event of the year. They are the best of the best down under in 2022. And I dare you to pronounce their names out loud.
Twenty-seven year old Ash Barty is no surprise to make it to the Elite Eight of the tournament since she is currently ranked #1 in the world by the Women’s Tennis Association, a place she has held since September, 2019. She won the French Open in 2019 and Wimbledon last year – but has yet to capture the trophy in her home country of Australia. However, this future Hall of Famer is the odds-on favorite to hold the trophy in 2022.
Both Polish tennis player Iga Swiatek and Czech player Barbora Krejickova have won the singles titles at the French Open, too. Swiatek won at Roland Garros in 2020 while Krejickova won the French last year in both singles and doubles. Twenty year old Swiatek is the youngest of the select group, currently ranked #8 in the world by the WTA, and is seeded #7 in this year’s Australian Open. Krejickova, twenty-six years of age and born in the Czech Republic is currently ranked #5 in singles in the world, seeded #4 at the AO so Swiatek and Krejickova, like Ash Barty, are not surprises in the quarterfinals this year.
The oldest women’s singles player in the quarterfinals of the AO, thirty-six year old Kaia Kanepi was born in Estonia, is currently ranked #63 in singles by the WTA, and was unseeded in this year’s AO. She’s reached the quarterfinals of the French, Wimbledon and the US Open before but this is her first time to make the second week in Melbourne. She’s a bona fide surprise.
Finally, there are three American women who are in the quarterfinals of the AO in 2022, and the big surprise to me about all of them is that none of their last names is Williams. For as long as I have been watching tennis, and that’s probably more years than most of my friends in cyberspace have been on the earth, the names Venus and Serena have defined the American tennis landscape. Venus won the AO two times – Serena has seven trophies from Melbourne. But these amazing women didn’t make the trip this year.
With gratitude and appreciation for the legacy of the Williams sisters, three American women represent in the second week quarterfinals of a grand slam tennis event in Melbourne. Remember the names of twenty-eight year old Danielle Collins who played varsity tennis at the University of Virginia and was a semi-finalist at the Australian Open in 2019 but is seeded #27 in this year’s grand slam; twenty-seven year old Madison Keys was a semi-finalist at the AO in 2015 but is unseeded at this tournament since her WTA ranking slipped to #51; and nearly twenty-eight year old (b. 02-24-94) Jessica Pegula who made the quarterfinals of the AO last year, too, but was eliminated by another American player Jen Brady, who lost to Naomi Osaka in the final. Brady was unable to participate this year due to a foot injury.
I love to watch tennis matches on all surfaces during the season – the clay courts are my favorites, and I think I heard a random comment on the Tennis Channel those tournaments will begin next week as the Australian Open closes. I have to say I hope the vaccination drama is over and that everyone learned a valuable lesson from it. In sports the name is the game. When I watched the remarkable tennis played by the eight women who are now in the quarterfinals, I almost forgot the hullabaloo that preceded their stellar performances.
I’m not an oddsmaker, but I wouldn’t bet against any of the women in the quarterfinals. I do predict outstanding tennis from them. May the best woman win.
Alize Cornet has already won.
Stay safe, stay sane, get vaccinated, get boosted and please stay tuned.