Sabalenka wins, emotional Cornet bids adieu to tennis - GulfToday

Sabalenka wins, emotional Cornet bids adieu to tennis

France’s Alize Cornet holds an award during a tribute ceremony after her women’s singles match against Zheng Qinwen at the French Open. AFP

Aryna Sabalenka eased into the French Open second round at a rainswept Roland Garros on Tuesday. Australian Open champion Sabalenka, a semi-finalist in Paris in 2023, over-powered Russian teenager Erika Andreeva 6-1, 6-2 in just 68 minutes under the roof on Court Philippe Chatrier.

World number two Sabalenka fired 27 winners past the 100th-ranked Andreeva and broke serve five times in a dominant display.

The Belarusian has made at least the last four at her past six Grand Slams and is expected to be Iga Swiatek’s toughest rival in the Pole’s bid for a fourth French Open title.

Heavy rain caused play on the outside, uncovered courts to be delayed by five hours and by 6 pm local time only nine of the scheduled 40 matches had been completed.

Two-time runner-up Casper Ruud, who won clay-court titles in Barcelona and Geneva in the build-up to Roland Garros, cruised to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Brazilian qualifier Felipe Meligeni Alves.

Ruud was beaten in straight sets by Novak Djokovic in last year’s final following a one-sided loss to Rafael Nadal in the 2022 showpiece. He also lost the 2022 US Open final to Carlos Alcaraz.

Over on Court Suzanne Lenglen, former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina powered into the second round with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Belgian Greet Minnen.

Kazakh world number four Rybakina is the only player to defeat Swiatek on clay this season, in the Stuttgart semi-finals in April.

Alizé Cornet was given a standing ovation and a farewell trophy after playing the final match of her long tennis career, a 6-2, 6-1 loss to No. 7 seed Zheng Qinwen in the first round of the French Open on Tuesday.

The 34-year-old Cornet is a Frenchwoman who was given a wild-card entry into the tournament. She had announced ahead of time that this would be her last event before retirement.

French tennis federation president Gilles Moretton and tournament director Amélie Mauresmo participated in a ceremony after the match at Court Philippe Chatrier.

In an emotional speech, Cornet thanked her family and French fans, expressing her gratitude for their support over the years.

“You gave me incredible emotions. It’s tough to realize that it’s the last time I’m feeling this,” she said.

A video tribute highlighting her career, which began in 2005, was shown on the giant screens.

Cornet reached a career-high ranking of No. 11 in 2009 and is currently No. 106, after going 1-7 this season. She holds the women’s record for most consecutive Grand Slam tournaments played at 69, a streak that ran from the 2007 Australian Open to this French Open.

Her career highlights include defeating No. 1 Serena Williams in the third round at Wimbledon in 2014 and one major quarterfinal appearance, at the Australian Open in 2022.

“We won’t forget you. I hope you enjoy your life after retirement,” said Zheng, the runner-up at this year’s Australian Open.

Cornet said she decided last year she would stop playing professionally but waited to reveal the news until about a month ago. She is a published author and says she sees writing as part of the next chapter of her life.

“I wanted to have a couple more wins under my belt before I finished,” Cornet said.

“But it was a lot of up and downs. Definitely, emotionally, it was not easy. Some days I was really excited about retirement and some other days I was very scared and very uncertain. So overall, I feel in peace today about it, and so I’m very happy about that decision.”

In just one year, they have become unmissable at Grand Slams, just like their hero, Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner: Meet the “Carota Boys”.

They are six young Italians dressed as carrots who are at the French Open in a colourful attempt to inspire Sinner to victory.

From Revello, a small town in Piedmont, they have travelled to Paris, Wimbledon, New York and Melbourne.

“It’s crazy and incredible,” agree Gianluca Bertorello and Enrico Ponsi, two of the six “Carota Boys”, all aged between 25 and 30.

Football and tennis fans, they feel a common connection with the beanpole Sinner who is “a young, simple guy, who like us comes from a small town”.


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