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'I have only nice words': Halep hails Cornet after heartbreak

  • Matt Trollope

Shortly after losing a sapping battle to Alize Cornet in the fourth round of Australian Open 2022, Simona Halep was hoping the Frenchwoman could extend her stay at Melbourne Park.

The resurgent Romanian had stormed into the last 16 without dropping a set, but ran into a player who has developed into something of her nemesis. 

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But not only did Cornet stop Halep 6-4 3-6 6-4 – the 32-year-old also advanced to her first major quarterfinal in her 63rd Grand Slam tournament appearance.

Even Halep could not help but be moved by the heart-warming achievement that overwhelmed Cornet and saw her weep with happiness on court, prior to an unforgettable post-match interview with former world No.4 Jelena Dokic. 

"I have only nice words about her, because I like her on court, how she's fighting," Halep said of Cornet. 

MORE: AO 2022 women's singles draw

"She deserves what is happening to her now. She work hard all the time, and, yeah, I wish her good luck. 

"I really want her to make this dream coming true. I will support her."

Match point brought elation for Cornet, exhaustion for Halep

Having beaten a pair of multiple major champions in Garbine Muguruza and Halep so far this fortnight, Cornet next lines up against Danielle Collins, hoping to continue her dream run at the Australian Open.

But at stages during their two-and-a-half hour slugfest in brutal summer heat, it appeared as if it would be the former world No.1, rather than Cornet, moving through to that quarterfinal slot opposite Collins.

Halep was just one point away from trailing 6-4 4-1, but surged back into the contest, earning a break point which would have given her a 4-2 lead in the final set.

But she did not convert it. And Cornet recalibrated, grinding her way to a fourth victory in five career meetings with the Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion.

"The heat got me actually early in the first set. I felt sick, felt a little bit dizzy," Halep said.

"It's tough to play in the heat, and I was not ready today. She was a little bit stronger, and that's why she could win the match.

"(But) I think I played well. Just missed some opportunities, some chances, but I'm really happy with the way I fought today. So this is important."

Halep saw the bigger picture despite her fourth-round exit

The importance of her fight cannot be overlooked, considering the challenges she faced throughout a disappointing 2021 – and the subsequent rebound she has so far enjoyed.

A freak calf tear, sustained in Rome in May, ruled her out of Roland Garros and Wimbledon. 

As a result, she fell outside the top 10, ending a remarkable uninterrupted seven-and-a-half year stretch inside that top bracket.

When she resumed play in August, she went a respectable 13-5 through to the end of the season but fell further, outside the top 20. Her year ended on an even more sour note when a knee injury forced her out of her final tournament in Linz.

This made her 8-0 start to 2022, including a WTA title at the Melbourne Summer Set 1 tournament, all the more encouraging despite Monday's eventual defeat to Cornet.

"I'm super happy with the way I have been here in Australia," Halep assessed.

"I struggled a lot last year, and the way I got up, it's looking really good. I'm happy about that, and I will take only the positives.

"I'm looking forward to the next one already."