“Roland, you have seen me take my first steps, grow, win, lose, curse, fire myself up, but above all, leave your court with nothing left to give. You have brought me tears of joy, stress and despair. But all too rarely have you brought me peace of mind. You’re far too intense for that. And so am I.” — Alizé Cornet, in a farewell letter to Roland Garros

PARIS — Meeting with the media at Roland Garros on Friday, Alizé Cornet couldn’t escape the gravity of the moment — the sheer finality of it all.

“I try to put the emotional side aside, and to focus on what is concrete, practice, the opening coming up,” she said. “It’s true that I will realize what’s happening in the days to come, and I will have a little bit of nostalgia, but that’s normal. There are ups and downs, of course, but I’m holding my own.”

The 34-year-old from Nice, France, playing with a wild card from the French Tennis Federation, has announced that this will be her last tournament as a professional. She plays No.7 seed Zheng Qinwen in a first-round match on Tuesday.

In her own words, all 25 of Alizé Cornet’s Top 10 wins

Cornet has a flair for — perhaps an inclination toward? — the dramatic. She began honing that skill as a child actor, appearing in a number of French television shows growing up. And now she will look back on a career filled with all kinds of dramatic moments.

Cornet made her debut on the Hologic WTA Tour as a 15-year-old wild card at the French Open in 2005. Three years later, still only 18, she made the finals in Rome. She reached the fourth round here in 2015 and 2017.

Cornet reached the Round of 16 at all four Grand Slams — and a career-best quarterfinal two years ago at the Australian Open. She’s won six Hologic WTA Tour titles and reached a career-high No.11 in 2009.

But her real calling card is consistency. Tennis is a mentally and physically taxing sport, and it’s difficult to string together long, successful runs. Injuries are a constant threat and virtually every player has periods where they are forced to rest and rehabilitate.

Causal tennis fans might not know it, but Cornet holds the Open Era record for consecutive Grand Slam main-draw appearances. The streak began at the 2007 Australian Open and will end in Paris at 69. Ai Sugiyama, with 62, was the previous standard. On the men’s side, Fernando Verdasco played in 67 straight.

Cornet said she’s going to miss the tennis part of professional tennis.

“I just like to hit the ball playing tennis,” she said. “It’s pretty straightforward, basically. The inner child that is within me still likes to play tennis. What I will miss as well is the emotion that you feel when you win matches. It’s actually pretty addictive. This is what gives us the impetus to do better every day, the adrenaline, this emotion, what you feel during matches, this is something that you can find hardly anywhere else in normal life.”

The rest of it? Maybe not so much.

“I’m quite happy not to open up the bags and close them again and go and travel all the time,” Cornet said. “It was good to hold my own for such a long time, to stay at such a high level for nearly 20 years, but it also cost me a lot emotionally speaking, and from a psychological point of view as well.

I have no regrets, or very few, because I’ve given you everything in the name of my love of tennis. Dear Roland, you’ve been the greatest reward for all my hard work. So if this is to be our last dance, let’s make it one to remember! It’s what our story deserves.

– Alizé Cornet

“I’m ready to have a life that would be easier. I’m not going to say that I’m going to be a granny now, but I gave my all. I gave it my all and even more.”

In addition to that consecutive Grand Slam streak, Cornet’s career is also notable for — did we mention drama? — her 25 Top 10 wins. For an entire decade, she had at least one per year.

Three of those came against Serena Williams in 2014, in Dubai, Wimbledon and Wuhan. Williams was the No.1-ranked player in the world in each of those matches. Two years ago at Wimbledon, she stunned another No.1 — Iga Swiatek. It happened in the third round and ended Swiatek’s celebrated 37-match winning streak.

“Someone had to do it,” Cornet said with characteristic moxie, “and it had to be me. That’s exactly what I told myself. Someone has to break the streak, and I have everything to do it on this surface. I felt super-confident, but not in a cocky way.

“I was believing in myself. I have a lack of this very often in my career, and it was very enjoyable to play with that feeling.”

On Tuesday, she’ll play Zheng, a 21-year-old player who has beaten her twice in their previous matches. It’s a long shot, but we’d be remiss not to mention that Zheng is a Top 10 player. And considering the stage, no one would put it past Cornet to spring one last upset.

Source: https://www.wtatennis.com/news/4027565/aliz-cornet-s-parting-words-as-she-bids-au-revoir-to-tennis

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