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Crafty Alize Cornet flummoxes Agnieszka Radwanska, Simona Halep advances

Alize Cornet beat Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-1 to enter French Open Round of 16 while Simona Halep survived a second-set scare to beat Daria Kasatkina 6-0, 7-5 in the third round.

tennis Updated: Jun 04, 2017 01:02 IST
French Open 2017,Roland Garros,Alize Cornet
Alize Cornet returns to Agnieszka Radwanska during their French Open tennis match at the Roland Garros on Saturday.(AFP)

Using an armoury of delicate drop shots, Alize Cornet rode a tide of French support into the last-16 of Roland Garros on Saturday with a 6-2 6-1 win over Agnieszka Radwanska.

The Frenchwoman flummoxed the Polish ninth seed with a display that delighted the home crowd, and signalled a palpable belief in her ability to go much further here.

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“There are no words,” Cornet told the crowd. “It is fantastic to be able to play so well on centre court. There was no better scenario. Clay is not my favourite surface but I feel so well on this centre court. I did not let her dictate the points, stayed close to my baseline and tried to mix it up with drop shots. I saw it was working so I continued.”

Victories by Cornet and Caroline Garcia gave France three women in the fourth round of the French Open for the first time since 1994 (Kristina Mladenovic advanced on Friday). Cornet and Garcia will meet for a quarterfinal berth guaranteed to go to someone from the host country.

Also into the fourth round: 2014 runner-up Simona Halep and former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. Four women’s matches didn’t begin before the wet weather.

These two players are similar in many aspects. Radwanska was junior champion here in 2006, Cornet a year later and both rely on brains rather than brawn to overcome opponents.

From the start, Cornet’s forehand drop shot, so effective in beating 20th seed Barbora Strycova in the last round, was her prime weapon, and she gained the upper hand in early exchanges, as French fans trickled into the Philippe Chatrier showcourt earlier than they otherwise might.

Cornet, who had reached the last-16 here only once before in 12 earlier attempts, sensed a big opportunity, and tension crackled on the court as she set about picking apart the game of her higher-ranked opponent.

Having exchanged breaks early on, Cornet again eased ahead as Radwanska attempted to counter the Frenchwoman’s guile with power. Power is not her forte, though, and accordingly errors began to creep in.

Against a backdrop of roars from the crowd, a fist-pumping Cornet sealed the opening set at the first time of asking when Radwanska fired a forehand wide.

The Pole slumped into her seat as Cornet readjusted her pony-tail and headband, a look of determination on her face.

Cornet resumed where she had left off, feathering delightful drop shots over the net to leave Radwanska stranded, but too frequently she let her off the hook with a sloppy double fault.

Radwanska had come from a set down to win her last match, and is no quitter. She chased down a series of smashes from Cornet until the Frenchwoman fired one wide and long then used a drop shot of her own to break at the start of the second set.

But where in the past Cornet has seemed brittle, here the 27-year-old showed real resilience, breaking back and then keeping the pressure up.

Coming into this match, world number 43 Cornet had won just one of the pair’s eight matches, but she never looked like being denied.

As yet another drop shot eluded her, Radwanska gave the impression she felt with this was a Polish version of ‘one of those days’.

Cornet floated another forehand drop shot, this one brushing the net, to break for 5-1, and fittingly closed it out with a drop-shot pass combination.

Simona Halep survives Kasatkina scare

Simona Halep survived a third-round scare against young pretender Daria Kasatkina in a Roland Garros rollercoaster on Saturday, winning 6-0 7-5 after initially threatening to brush past the 20-year-old Russian with ease.

Kasatkina began tentatively against the Romanian third seed in what looked like a case of big-match nerves.

Hitting powerfully on both wings from the back of the court, Halep romped through the first set in 30 minutes and led 3-1 in the second.

The 20-year-old Russian then sparked into life, winning the next four games and holding three set points in the 10th game before Halep edged through, closing out the match with a net chord that Kasatkina failed to return.

“I played really well at the beginning,” Halep, who won the Madrid title and reached the Rome final in the run up to Roland Garros, said courtside.

“She was coming back really strongly and I think my energy went a bit down... She’s a really tough opponent.”

First Published: Jun 03, 2017 19:19 IST