Alize Cornet is simply living in the moment at the Australian Open, after she suggested 2022 will be her final year on the court.

Cornet defeated reigning WTA Finals champion Garbine Muguruza 6-3 6-3 on Thursday to reach the third round of the Australian Open for the sixth time in her career.

The 31-year-old did not offer up a single break point across the 87-minute encounter with 2020 Australian Open finalist Muguruza, who entered the tournament ranked third in the world.

It marked Cornet's third straight win over Spain's Muguruza, who is a two-time grand slam champion.

Cornet is playing in her 63rd grand slam and 17th Australian Open, yet the Frenchwoman has never progressed deeper than the fourth round at a major.

This is Cornet's 60th successive appearance in the main draw at a grand slam, meaning she is just two shy of the record held by Ai Sugiyama (62).

Should Cornet, who will play Tamara Zidansek in round three, feature in the main draw of each of this year's majors, she will set the outright record.

However, should she achieve that feat, it may well mark the end of her career.

"I'm telling myself that I'm playing probably my last year. I'm not sure yet," she told reporters.

"When I stepped on the court, I was like, You know what, just enjoy the moment because you don't know if you're going to come back. I think that's what made the difference.

"Playing a whole year, playing 100 per cent, trying to beat this record of consecutive play in a grand slam. After that, I think it will be a good time for me to retire. 

"I gave so much to this game and to this tennis life. I feel I'm pretty much ready for the next chapter.

"It's been a while [since I] beat a Top 5 player in a slam, so it's a really good feeling. 

"I really enjoyed it today, which doesn't mean I will enjoy it tomorrow! That's why when the fun is here, you have to take it. You never know how you're going to feel in the next match."

 

Muguruza was not the only big name to drop out on Thursday, with sixth seed Anett Kontaveit falling foul of teenager Clara Tauson.

The 19-year-old Dane needed just 79 minutes to seal a 6-2 6-4 victory that brings up her first win over a Top 10 opponent in only her second such match.

Kontaveit won 28 of her last 32 matches in 2021 to break into the Top 10.

"It's the first time I'm in the third round of a slam," said Tauson. 

"Playing a player like her to reach it, it's a really big achievement for me. Obviously, it was one of the things I really wanted to do, to beat the good players in the bigger tournaments.

"Doing it in a slam is a really great feeling. It's just a lot of hard work that I've put into it."

Novak Djokovic's absence from the Australian Open "is a loss for the game", says men's tennis governing body the ATP.

The world number one failed in his bid to overturn a decision from the government to cancel his visa on public health grounds at the Federal Court in Melbourne on Sunday.

Djokovic, who is unvaccinated against COVID-19, will therefore be unable to participate in the Australian Open, where he was seeking a record-extending 10th title.

As the 20-time grand slam winner prepared to fly out of Australia on Sunday, the ATP released a statement reflecting on a "deeply regrettable" saga that lasted 10 days.

"Today's decision to uphold Novak Djokovic's Australian visa cancellation marks the end of a deeply regrettable series of events," the statement read. 

"Ultimately, decisions of legal authorities regarding matters of public health must be respected. 

"More time is required to take stock of the facts and to take the learnings from this situation.

"Irrespective of how this point has been reached, Novak is one of our sport's greatest champions and his absence from the Australian Open is a loss for the game. 

"We know how turbulent the recent days have been for Novak and how much he wanted to defend his title in Melbourne. 

"We wish him well and look forward to seeing him back on court soon. ATP continues to strongly recommend vaccination to all players."

 

Sunday's verdict brings an end to a long-running saga that began when Djokovic was held at an airport in Melbourne when he arrived in the country on January 6.

The 34-year-old won an appeal to overturn the first bid to deport him from the country, but immigration minister Alex Hawke used his powers to again cancel the visa.

That decision was taken amid much backlash in the country, which has strict coronavirus restrictions, and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison backed Sunday's verdict.

"This cancellation decision was made on health, safety and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so," he said.

"I welcome the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe.

"I thank the court for their prompt attention to these issues and the patience of all involved as we have worked to resolve this issue. 

"It's now time to get on with the Australian Open and get back to enjoying tennis over the summer."

But the unanimous verdict did not go down well with everyone, with Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vucic launching an attack on Australia for their handling of the matter.

"I talked to Novak and told him I can't wait for him to come to Serbia and return to his country, and to be where he is always welcome," Vucic is quoted as saying by Novosti.

"They think that they humiliated Djokovic, but they humiliated themselves, and he can return to his country and look everyone in the eye with his head held high."

Speaking prior to Sunday's verdict, Rafael Nadal insisted the Australian Open will be a great tournament "with or without" Djokovic.

Other big names have yet to comment on the deportation order, but women's player Alize Cornet feels Djokovic's peers could have offered more support to the Serbian.

"I know too little to judge the situation. What I know is that Novak is always the first one to stand for the players," she posted on Twitter. 

"But none of us stood for him. Be strong, Novak."

Djokovic had been due to face Miomir Kecmanovic in the opening round on Monday but will now be replaced by lucky loser Salvatore Caruso.

The ATP has confirmed that there will be no shuffling of the seeds due to Monday's schedule of playing having been released prior to the court's decision.

Naomi Osaka marked her return to tennis with a hard-fought win in Melbourne and declared her love for competing had been reignited during a break from the sport.

The former world number one beat French player Alize Cornet 6-4 3-6 6-3 on Tuesday, in her first match since a third-round US Open defeat to eventual runner-up Leylah Fernandez.

The Japanese star said after that Flushing Meadows loss in September that she would put her tennis career on hold indefinitely.

Across several months, Osaka has adjusted her personal and professional priorities, pointing to the joy of San Francisco sleepovers with friends and reconnecting with normal life.

She believes there is a way to focus on the joy of competing, rather than the strains of performing in the public eye that caused her so much consternation last season, and there were glimpses of Osaka's best in the win over world number 61 Cornet at the WTA 250 Melbourne Summer Set 1 tournament.

Osaka pulled out of the 2021 French Open after one match and then elected not to play Wimbledon, as she addressed the importance of protecting her mental health.

She was reluctant to take part in media conferences, finding them harrowing at times, but on Tuesday the 24-year-old embraced the stage and explained how she had surprised herself by coming back to the court so soon.

"I actually really thought I wasn't going to play for most of this year," Osaka said. "I'm really happy with myself that I love the sport that much because I literally said that I was unsure when I was going to play after the US Open and I'm here right now.

"In the break I was feeling like I didn't know what my future was going to be. I'm pretty sure a lot of people can relate to that. Of course, you never know what the future holds, but it was definitely an indecisive time. But I'm really happy to be sitting here right now."

 

Osaka had envisaged a spell of globe-trotting – without a tennis racquet in her luggage – but the pandemic left her wary of following that route.

In the end, she settled on enjoying a quiet life for a while, saying: "I kind of stayed at home. My friends live near San Francisco, so I was driving to go see them and stay over at their house and bother them quite a few times.

"I feel like that's also an experience that I haven't been able to have in my life, just based on the fact that I play tennis and I travel a lot and I haven't been able to have sleepovers and stuff like that. It was cool to be able to do that."

Osaka said she has just "one major goal for 2022".

"For me, I just want to feel like every time I step on the court I'm having fun," she said. "I can walk off the court knowing that even if I lost, I tried as hard as I could. Also, I have a goal in the press room, that I'm never going to cry again, so hopefully that works out in my favour.

"I'm the type of person that cared a little bit too much about the results and the ranking and stuff like that, and I just need to find a way to enjoy the game again. Because that's the reason why I was playing in the first place."

Quoted on the WTA website, Osaka said opening up to others about the tribulations of life on the circuit helped her to adjust her goals.

"During the off-season I just hung out with my friends and talked to my family a lot. I felt like that was a way of decompressing the pressure I had on myself. Then I just slowly started to regain the feeling of love that I had towards the game," she said. "It's not like it ever completely went away, but I felt like it got overshadowed by a lot of emotions that I was feeling just by constantly playing year after year. Sometimes it's just good to remember why you're playing and stuff."

Top seed Osaka's win came on Rod Laver Arena, the main show court at the Melbourne Park complex that will stage the Australian Open later this month, when Osaka will be defending her title. Fellow seeds Liudmila Samsonova, Bernarda Pera and Alison Riske were beaten.

At the concurrent Melbourne Summer Set 2 event, American top seed Jessica Pegula was ousted in the first round by Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu, losing 7-6 (8-6) 6-3.

The Adelaide International 1 event contains the strongest field this week, and Tuesday saw straight-sets wins for Coco Gauff and a pair of 2020 grand slam winners in Iga Swiatek and Sofia Kenin.

Eighth seed Elina Svitolina had a bad day though, the Ukrainian losing 5-7 6-4 6-3 to Russia's world number 130 Anastasia Gasanova.

France's Billie Jean King Cup defence ended at the hands of the Russian Tennis Federation, who will meet the United States in the semi-finals after Wednesday's play in Prague. 

Clara Burel put France on course for the 3-0 victory they needed to advance from Group A with a three-set victory over Ekaterina Alexandrova, but Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova outlasted Alize Cornet in the second rubber to ensure a new champion will be crowned. 

Pavlyuchenkova saved six of 10 break points and racked up an impressive 34 winners en route to a crucial 5-7 6-4 6-2 success against Cornet. 

"I'm so, so happy and so proud of myself because I think it was an incredible match. It was very good tennis but more importantly I think it was an amazing fighting spirit from both of us," said Pavlyuchenkova. 

"We were like two tigers. Nobody wanted to give the other anything and I think that's what matters. That's the sport we're playing." 

Veronika Kudermetova and Liudmila Samsonova comfortably defeated Cornet and Burel in the doubles to consign the reigning champions to a 2-1 defeat. 

The RTF will go up against the USA in the first semi-final, with the Americans comfortably seeing off Spain in the singles rubbers. 

Sloane Stephens bested Nuria Parrizas-Diaz 6-4 6-4 before Danielle Collins swept Sara Sorribes Tormo aside 6-1 6-0 in under an hour. 

Collins won 83 per cent of points behind her first serve and forced Sorribes Tormo into 24 errors during a resounding victory. 

Spain avoided a 3-0 defeat, though, with Aliona Bolsova and Rebeka Masarova beating Caroline Dolehide and CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3 6-4 in the doubles rubber. 

Anett Kontaveit will face Ekaterina Alexandrova in the Kremlin Cup final after maintaining her magnificent form with a straight-sets defeat of Marketa Vondrousova.

Ninth seed Kontaveit ousted Vondrousova in Moscow on Saturday with a commanding 6-3 6-4 victory.

The Estonian had lost both of her previous two meetings with Vondrousova, but needed only an hour and 14 minutes to reach her fifth final this year.

Kontaveit struck 26 winners, with her backhand a potent weapon, and broke five times – three of those coming in the first set after she failed to hold in the first game of the match.

The 25-year-old Tallinn native has lost only two of her past 22 matches, while her winning run indoors now stands at nine.

Standing in the way of Kontaveit and a fourth title in 2021 is home hope Alexandrova, who advanced to her first WTA 500 final when Maria Sakkari retired due to dizziness.

Alexandrova was leading 4-1 in the opening set when the fourth seed from Greece decided she was unable to continue.

There will be an unseeded champion at the Tenerife Open after Colombian Camila Osorio beat Camila Giorgi 6-4 7-5.

Ann Li will play in her second title-decider of the year courtesy of an emphatic 6-2 6-1 triumph over Alize Cornet.

Elina Svitolina claimed her first title of the year with a hard-fought victory over Alize Cornet at the Chicago Women's Open.

Svitolina won in straight sets in tough conditions, though she needed two hours and two minutes to record a 7-5 6-4 triumph over her French opponent.

Cornet had won their previous meeting at Eastbourne in 2019 but the world number 68 was unable to pull off a repeat result against the tournament’s top seed in Illinois.

A see-saw contest saw 10 breaks of serve, starting with the second game as Svitolina struck an early blow while racing into a 3-0 lead.

However, Cornet clawed her way back to get on level terms and a tie-break looked likely until she was broken in a lengthy 12th game.

The second set followed a similar pattern as Svitolina again won the opening three games. After a medical timeout, Cornet cut the deficit to 3-2 but was not able to get back on level terms, the pair exchanging six breaks through to the conclusion.

Having failed to serve out for the victory, Svitolina finally secured a first tournament triumph since Strasbourg in 2020 thanks to a superb backhand.

It is her 16th title overall and comes as ideal preparation ahead of the US Open, where the Ukrainian will face qualifier Rebecca Marino in the opening round in New York.

Fifth seed Bianca Andreescu made an early exit from Wimbledon as she suffered a first-round defeat to Alize Cornet.

Two weeks on from losing to the same opponent on grass in Berlin, Andreescu suffered another straight-sets disappointment, going down 6-2 6-1.

The Canadian boasted a better first serve percentage (73 to 63) and hit more winners (17 to 11) but paid for a high unforced errors count (34 to seven) as she crashed out.

Andreescu's defeat extends a frustrating period since winning the US Open two years ago.

The 21-year-old, who recently split with long-time coach Sylvain Bruneau, has seen her career limited by a combination of injuries and the break enforced by the coronavirus pandemic.

As for Cornet, her Wimbledon campaign will continue with a second-round clash against either Greet Minnen or Ajla Tomljanovic.

The Frenchwoman is aiming to improve on the career-best run that saw her reach the fourth round at SW19 in 2014. 

Petra Kvitova came from a set down to beat Katarzyna Piter on her return from injury at the Bad Homburg Open, while no play was possible in Eastbourne on Monday due to rain.

Kvitova withdrew from the French Open after suffering a freak ankle injury during her post-match media duties at Roland Garros.

The two-time Wimbledon champion recovered to get her grass-court season under way in Germany and battled to a 4-6 6-1 6-4 over Polish outsider Piter.

A week before the third grand slam of the year gets started at the All England Club, top seed Kvitova trailed 2-0 in the final set as she struggled with her serve, but broke three times to book a second-round meeting with Ann Li.

Sloane Stephens withdrew ahead of her scheduled match with Laura Siegemund due to a foot injury. Riya Bhatia stepped in with Stephens absent, but Siegemund consigned her to a 2-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-1 defeat.

Angelique Kerber needed only 50 minutes to see the back of Ekaterina Yashina 6-1 6-1 on home soil, grasping all five break-point opportunities.

Kerber will do battle with Anna Blinkova in round two and Jessie Pegula's next assignment is an encounter with Katerina Siniakova following a 6-1 6-2 defeat of Amandine Hesse.

Blinkova beat Clara Tauson 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 6-2, while Sara Sorribes Tormo saw off Martina Trevisan 6-4 3-6 6-2

Miserable weather in Eastbourne prevented Karolina Pliskova, Madison Keys, Bianca Andreescu and Madison Keys from playing at the Viking International.

Qualifier Liudmila Samsonova continued what she described as an "unbelievable" run by upsetting Victoria Azarenka to seal a place in the bett1open final in Berlin.  

The world number 106 reached her first career final by beating two-time major champion Azarenka 6-4 6-2, having impressively seen off Madison Keys in the last eight.

It took just 66 minutes for Samsonova to win as she put on a powerful display of hitting on Saturday, firing down 11 aces.

The 22-year-old did not lose serve in the match and is the first qualifier to reach a WTA 500 final this season.

"It's all incredible for me, it's so new, and I'm very happy for it," Samsonova said amid a week that will give her a rankings surge.

"It’s unbelievable for me. It is the most important [week] of my life up to this moment. 

"I'm sure it’s going to be a tough match because [Bencic] plays very good on this surface, and she's a good player. I will try to do my best and focus on my game, and we will see."

Fifth seed Bencic battled to a 7-5 6-4 victory over Alize Cornet in her last-four clash and will go into the final as favourite.

While the win came in straight sets, it was a hard-fought encounter, with Bencic winning all four of her break points while Cornet forced 10 but only converted two, which proved to be the difference.

Bencic, who will be encouraged ahead of Wimbledon, has now made four grass-court finals in her career and will seek her first WTA Tour title since October 2019 on Sunday.

The Swiss star, who had 29 winners and just 19 unforced errors against Cornet, lost to Iga Swiatek in Adelaide earlier this year in her only final appearance since that last title.

"I always try to play as many tournaments on grass as possible because I just love the surface," Bencic said.

"Of course it gives me a lot of confidence. It's always great to have this confirmation on grass that it is working well."

Belinda Bencic let anger fuel her progress to the semi-finals of the bett1open in Berlin on Friday.

Bencic – the fifth seed – needed a third-set tie-break to see off Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-4 4-6 7-6 (7-4).

The Swiss will face Alize Cornet at Steffi Graff Stadion in Saturday's semi-final, after the latter upset two-time grand slam winner and world number 13 Garbine Muguruza – similarly going the distance to prevail 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5) and saving match point at 5-4 in the tie-break.

Bencic had lost two of her previous three encounters with Alexandrova and conceded to having problems with her opponent's playing style after a fired-up performance at the WTA 500 event.

"I have to get mad," she said. "When I'm mad, I play better, I'm just hitting the ball. So I'm trying to get mad on court."

"I definitely don't like playing her," said Bencic afterwards. "There's not so much rhythm, she's very aggressive player, it's tough to stay in the rally. I would say I'm more relieved [to reach the semi-finals].

The other semi-final pits two-time slam champion Victoria Azarenka against qualifier Liudmila Samsonova.

Former world number one Azarenka battled to see off Karolina Pliskova's conqueror Jessica Pegula 6-2 5-7 6-4, gaining a measure of revenge over a player who dumped her out in the first round of the Australian Open this year.

Samsonova stunned Madison Keys, with a deciding tie-break again required, albeit one that was emphatically dealt with as the world number 106 won 7-6 (7-4) 2-6 7-6 (7-0).

The top three seeds fell at the bett1open on Wednesday as Aryna Sabalenka followed Elina Svitolina and Bianca Andreescu out of the tournament.

A 6-4 1-6 7-5 victory for Madison Keys over top seed Sabalenka capped a day of upsets in Berlin.

American Keys fought back from a set down to bundle the world number four out in an hour and 29 minutes.

The battling Sabalenka saved 10 break points but was unable to avoid an early exit in the inaugural grass-court event.

Second seed Svitolina started her grass-court season with a 6-4 7-5 defeat to Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Russian Alexandrova fended off seven set points in the second set before sending the world number six, who was given a first-round bye, packing.

Svitolina, playing her first match since crashing out of the French Open in the third round, became the fourth top-10 scalp for Alexandrova, who will face Belinda Bencic in her fifth quarter-final of the year.

Andreescu's first match on grass since Wimbledon qualifying three years ago ended in a 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 loss to Alize Cornet.

The third seed from Canada parted with her long-time coach Sylvain Bruneau after she was beaten by Tamara Zidansek in the first round at Roland Garros and was unable to hit the ground running on grass.

Bencic, the fifth seed, advanced with a 6-3 5-4 success over Petra Martic.

Belinda Bencic got her grass-court season under way with a battling victory over qualifier Jule Niemeier in the first round of the inaugural bett1 Open.

Fifth seed Bencic came from a set down to beat 167th-ranked German Niemeier 4-6 6-4 7-5 in Berlin on Monday.

The 21-year-old Niemeier was playing her first professional match on grass and gave a great account of herself against the world number 12, who needed two hours and 12 minutes to secure her place in the second round.

Bencic secured the only breaks in the second and third set to ensure she will face Petra Martic or Asia Muhammad in round two.

Madison Keys progressed in straight sets, getting the better of Polish qualifier Magdalena Frech 6-3 6-4.

The American, a winner of two WTA singles titles on grass, struck 19 winners as she set up an encounter with top seed Aryna Sabalenka.

There were also first-round victories for Alize Cornet and Ekaterina Alexandrova earlier in the day over Amanda Anisimova and Anna Kalinskaya respectively.

Top seed Ons Jabeur advanced to the last 16 at the MUSC Health Women's Open, while Magda Linette was a casualty on Tuesday.

Jabeur – who reached the semi-finals of the Volvo Car Open – made a winning start at the WTA 250 event after toppling Stefanie Vogele 6-4 6-1.

The Tunisian won 88.9 per cent of her first serves to set up a clash with qualifier Alycia Parks – the latter eased past fellow American Grace Min 6-1 6-4.

However, second seed Linette crashed out at the hands of in-form Colombian Maria Camila Osorio Serrano.

Osorio Serrano, who claimed her maiden singles title at the Copa Colsanitas in Bogota last week, upstaged Linette 6-3 4-6 7-5.

Elsewhere, 15-year-old wildcard Linda Fruhvirtova – in just her second WTA main-draw appearance – progressed 6-2 6-7 (7-9) 4-4 after fourth seed Alize Cornet retired in the final set.

Amanda Anisimova, Alize Cornet and Paula Badosa all survived scares on Monday to advance through to the second round of the Volvo Car Open in Charleston.

Number 13 seed Anisimova came from a set down to beat Magda Linette 5-7 6-2 6-3 on Monday, dropping serve only once in those last two sets.

Cornet, who reached the quarter-finals of this event in 2018, needed just under three hours to overcome Bernarda Pera 4-6 6-4 6-4.

Badosa also needed all three sets to see off Varvara Gracheva, the Spaniard hitting back to prevail 3-6 7-5 6-1.

Ajla Tomljanovic and Zarina Diyas were also among those to book a place in the next round, beating Christina McHale and Natalia Vikhlyantseva respectively in straight sets.

In the other WTA Tour event, Copa Colsanitas top seed Zheng Saisai eased past Usue Maitane Arconada 6-3 6-1 and will now face Stefanie Voegele.

Wang Yafan was another Chinese player to advance in Bogota, seeing off Emiliana Arango 6-4 5-7 7-5.

Sloane Stephens ended her losing run to start the year with a hard-fought three-set win over France's Oceane Dodin in the first round of the Miami Open on Wednesday.

Former US Open champion Stephens, ranked 49th in the world, defeated Dodin 6-7 (6-8) 6-4 6-2.

Stephens progresses to the second round where the top seeds, including top three Ash Barty, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep, will be introduced and she will face 28th seed Amanda Anisimova.

Danielle Collins, Wang Qiang, Alize Cornet and Caroline Garcia were among the other winners on Wednesday, while Svetlana Kuznetsova bowed out.

 

SLOANE FIGHTBACK

Stephens had endured a dismal start to 2021, enduring an 0-4 win-loss record to begin the year.

The 28-year-old American was made to do it the hard way against Dodin on Wednesday, dropping the first set in a tie-break.

Stephens improved on her return in the second set, winning 73 per cent of points off Dodin's second serve before running away with the match in the last.

"It's been a rough one for me lately, so I'm really pleased to get through that, fight my way through it and make it happen somehow," Stephens said post-match.

FORMER MAJOR WINNER GONE

Two-time grand slam winner Kuznetsova was the major first-round casualty, going down 2-6 6-2 6-1 to France's Alize Cornet.

Kuznetsova, who is now ranked 35th in the world, bows out with Cornet to face ninth seed Petra Kvitova.

Collins got past France's Kristina Mladenovic 6-3 6-3 with the 40th-ranked American setting up a second-round clash with 32nd seed Veronika Kudermetova.

Wang, ranked 38th in the world, also progressed despite dropping a set in a 6-1 3-6 6-3 win over Spanish qualifier Aliona Bolsova.

SECOND-ROUND MATCH-UPS

The round of 64 will commence on Thursday, with third seed Halep to face Garcia who got past another Romanian, Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-1 6-2.

Top seed Barty will be in action against Slovakia's Kristina Kucova, while fourth seed Sofia Kenin will take on former top-10 player Andrea Petkovic.

Second seed Osaka has an assignment against 77th-ranked Australian Ajla Tomljanovic, while 14th seed Victoria Azarenka is already into the third round with opponent Laura Siegemund withdrawing after her win on Tuesday.

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