Sat, Jul 2, 2022 4:15 PM
By HOWARD FENDRICH, AP Tennis Writer
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — 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.
Neither, several hours later, did fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, who grew frustrated by what he called a “circus” atmosphere and “bullying” tactics by Nick Kyrgios, who cursed and argued his way to a 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7) victory.
Kyrgios repeatedly berated chair umpire Damien Dumusois and insisted that Tsitsipas should be defaulted for hitting a ball into the stands near fans after dropping the second set at No. 1 Court.
There was some simultaneous contentiousness across the way at Centre Court, too, although to a much lesser degree, as 22-time major champion Rafael Nadal beat No. 27 seed Lorenzo Sonego 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. Nadal objected to Sonego's elongated grunts and called him up to the net to discuss it; Sonego objected to that sort of face-to-face confrontation.
Afterward, Nadal apologized, saying he shouldn't have tried to engage his opponent that way.
On a chilly, windy afternoon at No. 1 Court, Swiatek 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.”
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.”
Tomljanovic, a quarterfinalist a year ago at the All England Club, eliminated 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.
In a contest between two young Americans — and a rematch of the 2017 U.S. Open junior final — No. 20 seed Amanda Anisimova came back to top No. 11 Coco Gauff 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1 at Centre Court.
Gauff, who is 18 and lost to Swiatek in the final at Roland Garros last month, led 3-0 at the start, before the 20-year-old Anisimova’s forceful baseline game eventually began to hold sway. Anisimova took that opening set to a tiebreaker, which she then led 4-1, but Gauff grabbed the next half-dozen points.
That could have been trouble for Anisimova. She didn’t let it derail her. Instead, she kept taking control of groundstroke exchanges while also doing a fantastic job of handling Gauff’s serve, which reached 123 mph Saturday.
In all, Anisimova won more than half of Gauff’s service games and saved 10 of the 13 break points she faced.
After entering 2022 with a record of 11-23 in three-setters, Anisimova has gone 13-6 this season, leading the tour for the most victories in matches that go the distance.
When Anisimova closed out the victory, she dropped to her back on the court, covering her face with both hands, then rose to blow kisses to the crowd and wiped away tears.
Next for Anisimova is a match against Harmony Tan, who is making her Wimbledon debut and defeated Williams in the first round last Tuesday.
Other women’s fourth-round matches Monday will be No. 17 Elena Rybakina vs. Petra Martic, and 2019 champion Simona Halep against No. 4 Paula Badosa, who got past two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova 7-5, 7-6 (4).
A total of four American men are into the round of 16 at the All England Club for the first time since 1999 after victories Saturday by No. 11 Taylor Fritz and unseeded Brandon Nakashima. They join No. 23 Frances Tiafoe and No. 30 Tommy Paul, who advanced a day earlier.
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