By Ossian Shine
PARIS (Reuters) – In one way, Alize Cornet’s clash with 20th seed Barbora Strycova at Roland Garros on Thursday was a match that had everything. If “by everything” we mean a febrile French crowd, emotional outbursts and a healthy smattering of bizarrely struck shots.
The enormous smile on Cornet’s face at the end told its story. She had figured out how to beat a higher ranked opponent, and was marching towards the weekend.
“I always play great matches on (Court) Philippe Chatrier, so it’s magical,” Cornet grinned.
While Cornet was smiling, Strycova looked stunned. Stunned and fed up. She left the court with a polite half wave to the crowd as the French feted their heroine.
Cornet basked in the attention. The Frenchwoman, a champion here as a junior a decade ago, celebrated reaching the third round with a shriek of pure joy, a little jig and a pound of her heart.
She fired a ball into the crowd which stood to acclaim her.
Having lost as many matches as she has won this year, coming into the match, on paper, the Czech seed was favorite.
But the Roland Garros crowd can be a powerful weapon when one of their own is competing, and it roared and cheered and whistled the 27-year-old from the first point.
Cornet, who had lost in straight sets the last two times these players met, fell behind early on, but her plan was unshakeable – don’t let the Czech get into a rhythm.
Even when her drop shots landed halfway up the net on her own side of the court, she persevered, and in time, momentum swung her way.
Having trailed 2-4 and love-30 she fought back. Cornet held for 3-4 then broke her opponent with some sidespun forehands.
The Frenchwoman pumped her fist, while Strycova shrugged, gesticulated and remonstrated with herself.
The Czech’s frustration was mounting as the temperature crept up on Court Philippe Chatrier.
When Cornet eased ahead for the first time in the match to lead 5-4, her opponent had no answers, and the Frenchwoman broke straight away to seal the set.
Increasingly Strycova looked like she would rather be anywhere else, and rarely looked like making a fight of it, spraying 36 unforced errors in a contest she will want to forget.
Cornet will next face Agnieszka Radwanska, after the Polish ninth seed hit back to oust Alison Van Uytvanck 6-7(3) 6-2 6-3.
Making her 13th consecutive appearance at the French Open, Cornet will be looking to better her best result here when she reached the last 16 in 2015.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)