Alize Cornet thrilled the crowd a year ago as she battled her way to the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and she in turn is thrilled to return to the scene of one of her greatest career triumphs.
Her Dubai debut came close to matching that of Andy Murray, who sensationally upset defending champion Roger Federer in the opening round in 2008, as she claimed a stunning victory over world number one Serena Williams in the semi-finals.
Charming and impressing everyone in equal measure, Cornet swept through to the final without giving up a set, taking full advantage of world number nine Simona Halep’s first round retirement against her and then sweeping past three more top 20 opponents as she beat Kirsten Flipkens, Carla Suarez Navarro and then Serena Williams.
Incredibly, Cornet had only received a place in the main draw when Svetlana Kuznetsova withdrew with injury, but she played with confidence and conviction throughout the week, and held her nerve well as Williams fought off three match points before surrendering on the fourth.
“I was so excited about this match, and now that I beat Serena it’s a dream come true,” said Cornet after her famous victory. “It’s definitely the biggest win of my career. I did it in such a good way, such a good match. Very, very strong and smart till the end. I didn’t try to be more powerful than her, because, anyway, it’s impossible. I just tried to play with my weapon. I’m really, really happy and proud of myself.”
Although, exhausted by her efforts and managing to earn just three games against Venus Williams in the final, she was delighted with her week.
“It was a great week for me,” said. “I would have loved to make like a better final, you know, with a little bit more of suspense. And the score is really too hard to finish the week, such a good week, but I will have to take all the positive things out of this week. I think there is a lot, so I’m still very motivated for the rest of the season.”
And motivated she was, as she proved that her victory over Serena wasn’t just a matter of luck as she beat her again in the third round at Wimbledon. And then she made it three wins when Serena was forced to retire against her in Wuhan.
A few weeks after her Dubai adventure she claimed the fourth title of her career in Katowice, upsetting world number three and former Dubai champion Agnieszka Radwanska in the semi-finals, and in September she advanced to yet another final, in Guangzhou.
“It was wonderful to witness the skill and enthusiasm of Alize Cornet throughout the week, and her unexpected victory over Serena Williams was one of the most interesting results in the history of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers. “She continued to play well throughout the season, and it will be interesting to see whether being back once again in the environment of one of her greatest career victories will inspire her to enjoy another successful week.”
Cornet demonstrated last year that she could succeed in one of the toughest draws to compete outside of the Grand Slams, and that will give her confidence as she faces a similar challenge once again.
“Alize Cornet is clearly able to beat the very best players in the world, and everyone in the draw will be very well aware of the danger she poses,” said tournament director Salah Tahlak. “However, she faces a monumental task if she is to repeat her 2014 success this year, with no less than eight of the world’s top players competing against her. It will be very interesting indeed to see how she fares.”
Play in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships begins with the WTA event which takes place between 15th and 21st February and features world number one and reigning US and Australian Open champion Serena Williams, Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, French Open and WTA Finals runner-up Simona Halep, former Dubai champions Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki, recent Brisbane finalist Ana Ivanovic and reigning Dubai champion Venus Williams.
The tournament then continues between 23rd and 28th February with the ATP tournament featuring world number one and reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, defending Dubai winner Roger Federer, Australian Open runner-up Andy Murray and two-time Dubai runner-up and recent Australian Open semi-finalist Tomas Berdych.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Tickets for the event are available from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily. Tickets are still available for every day of the women’s week, and start at just 75dhs for the first three days of play, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Tickets are also still available for the first three days of the men’s week.