DUBAI (AFP) – Alize Cornet, who sensationally beat world number one Serena Williams in last year’s semi-final, escaped from danger in one of the Dubai Open’s longest ever women’s matches on Sunday.
The 15th-seeded Frenchwoman trailed 0-3 in the final set against Kirsten Flipkens, before winning 6-0, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 against the former Wimbledon semi-finalist from Belgium.
The match lasted three hour and 11 minutes, even though the first set took a mere 20 minutes and although Cornet appeared to have reached match point in the second set tie-break when her lob landed on the line at six points all.
But the ball was wrongly called out and Cornet, who had already used her allocation of three video reviews, was unable to challenge it.
After that the match lasted another up-and-down 70 minutes and Cornet, 25, was still cross about the decision after an emotionally draining victory.
“You know what I told the chair umpire?” said Cornet, who lost last year’s final in straight sets to Venus Williams.
“I told her, ‘when you will see the replay, you will think of me, you will think of me’”.
Earlier Flavia Pennetta, the former top 20 Italian, provided a substantial payback to organisers, who had given her a wild card, by recovering dramatically to win her first round match.
Pennetta’s attempts to enter the $2.5 million tournament had only happened after the official deadline, and after getting her belated acceptance the 32-year-old responded with an emotional 2-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 win over Germany’s Julia Goerges, also a former top 20 player, to score her first victory of the year.
Goerges, 26, had also been fortunate to make the main draw, qualifying only as a lucky loser, but seemed certain to make further progress when she led by a set and 5-2 in the second.
“I was almost crying on the court – I was feeling so bad,” admitted Pennetta.
“Sometimes you don’t feel good at the beginning of the year. My good tennis just was not coming.”
She slipped to 15-40 in the eighth game of the second set, but somehow conjured two steadier rallies to save those two match points, and then saved two more after Goerges got advantage points.
After saving those two as well Pennetta claimed: “I don’t know how I did it.