Top-ranked Iga Swiatek was unbeaten since February and sure seemed unbeatable, compiling 37 consecutive match wins and six consecutive tournament titles.
She’s never quite been as comfortable on grass courts as other surfaces, though, and a mistake-filled Saturday sent Swiatek out of Wimbledon in the third round with a 6-4, 6-2 loss to 37th-ranked Alize Cornet of France.
“I know I didn’t play good tennis. I was pretty confused about my tactics,” said Swiatek, a two-time French Open champion who has never advanced past the fourth round at the All England Club. “For sure, it wasn’t a good performance for me.”
It was not just the match’s winner that was unexpected. It was also just how one-sided this 1-hour, 33-minute encounter was.
“This kind of match is what I’m living for, it’s what I’m practicing for every day,” Cornet said. “It really drives me. I knew I could do it. Somehow, I had this belief.”
No woman had won as many matches in a row as Swiatek since Martina Hingis also put together a run of 37 in 1997.
But right away, it seemed, this would not be Swiatek’s day.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she said.
On a chilly, windy afternoon at No. 1 Court, she quickly fell behind 3-0 and of Cornet’s first 14 points, nine came via unforced errors off the racket of the 21-year-old player from Poland. Only one came via a winner produced by Cornet herself.
Normally so crisp with her shots, calm with her demeanor, Swiatek was not exactly at ease in either sense. After one missed forehand return, she swatted the toes of her right shoe with her racket.
By the end, Swiatek had made 33 unforced errors – a whopping 26 more than Cornet. And Swiatek’s strong forehand produced nine winners, only two more than Cornet amassed.
This is not the first surprising result Cornet has come up with at the All England Club. The only other time she reached the fourth round at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament came in 2014, when she eliminated major singles champion Serena Williams.
“I have no words right now. It reminds me of the time I beat Serena on the same court, eight years ago exactly,” Cornet said. “This court is a lucky charm for me.”
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When the match ended – appropriately enough, with Swiatek dumping a forehand into the net – Cornet raised her arms and smiled as wide a smile as can be.
Cornet is a 32-year-old who reached her first quarterfinal in 63 appearances at majors by getting that far at the Australian Open in January. Now she’s a win away from getting that far again, facing unseeded Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia next.
“I’m like good wine,” Cornet said. “Good wine always ages well.”