By Nicholas J. Walz
Throughout the year, EmiratesUSOpenSeries.com will feature players who could make an impact during this year's Series. Here’s a look at the top-ranked Frenchwoman in the world, 24-year-old Alize Cornet.
The Baseline: The 2007 French Open girls’ singles champion and a former junior standout, Cornet is currently enjoying one of the best stretches of her professional career. She has registered six wins against Top 20 opponents already in 2014, defeating the likes of current world No. 1 Serena Williams in Dubai and No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska last month in Katowice, with a partisan Radwanska crowd cheering on the top-seeded Pole. After topping Radwasnka in the semis, Cornet overcame Camila Giorgi, 7-6, 5-7, 7-5, in the final for her first-ever WTA hard-court title.
Cornet has captured four singles titles overall in her eight years as a pro, and was also part of the Hopman Cup-winning tandem for France (with countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga) in January. She also reached the Dubai final this year, falling to Venus Williams after her win over Serena.
The Breakdown: For all her accomplishments, Cornet has struggled to break into the game’s top ranks. Her peak in 2009, when she hit No. 11 in the world, was followed by an unremarkable stretch that saw her finish outside the Top 75 in 2010 and 2011. She’s of average height (5-foot-8) and build, with a strong two-handed backhand but nothing else that would be considered a “plus” stroke; her victories are built on effort. That effort, it seems, may now be yielding her breakthrough. Thirteen of Cornet’s matches this year have gone to three sets, and she’s won 11 of those – and her increased toughness and improved maturity could portend even better results moving forward.
Historically, Cornet has played well on hard courts. She reached the third round last year at the US Open, taking the first set in her match with No. 2 Victoria Azarenka. And outside a loss to Anna-Lena Grönefeld in 2008, the other six of Cornet’s defeats in Flushing Meadows have come at the hands of seeded players (including three to Top 5 players: Jelena Jankovic in 2007, Petra Kvitova in 2012 and Azarenka last year).
Her current ranking is No. 21, and with the majority of the season on clay – her best surface – still to be played, Cornet could potentially vault into the Top 15 by the time the Series kicks off.