PARIS (Reuters) - Using an armory of delicate drop shots, Alize Cornet rode a tide of French support into the last-16 of Roland Garros on Saturday with a 6-2 6-1 win over Agnieszka Radwanska.
The Frenchwoman flummoxed the Polish ninth seed with a display that delighted the home crowd, and signaled a palpable belief in her ability to go much further here.
“There are no words,” Cornet told the crowd. “It is fantastic to be able to play so well on center court. There was no better scenario.
“Clay is not my favorite surface but I feel so well on this center court. I did not let her dictate the points, stayed close to my baseline and tried to mix it up with drop shots. I saw it was working so I continued.”
These two players are similar in many aspects. Radwanska was junior champion here in 2006, Cornet a year later and both rely on brains rather than brawn to overcome opponents.
From the start, Cornet’s forehand drop shot, so effective in beating 20th seed Barbora Strycova in the last round, was her prime weapon, and she gained the upper hand in early exchanges, as French fans trickled into the Philippe Chatrier showcourt earlier than they otherwise might.
Cornet, who had reached the last-16 here only once before in 12 earlier attempts, sensed a big opportunity, and tension crackled on the court as she set about picking apart the game of her higher-ranked opponent.
Having exchanged breaks early on, Cornet again eased ahead as Radwanska attempted to counter the Frenchwoman’s guile with power. Power is not her forte, though, and accordingly errors began to creep in.
Against a backdrop of roars from the crowd, a fist-pumping Cornet sealed the opening set at the first time of asking when Radwanska fired a forehand wide.
The Pole slumped into her seat as Cornet readjusted her pony-tail and headband, a look of determination on her face.
Cornet resumed where she had left off, feathering delightful drop shots over the net to leave Radwanska stranded, but too frequently she let her off the hook with a sloppy double fault.
Radwanska had come from a set down to win her last match, and is no quitter. She chased down a series of smashes from Cornet until the Frenchwoman fired one wide and long then used a drop shot of her own to break at the start of the second set.
But where in the past Cornet has seemed brittle, here the 27-year-old showed real resilience, breaking back and then keeping the pressure up.
Coming into this match, world number 43 Cornet had won just one of the pair’s eight matches, but she never looked like being denied.
As yet another drop shot eluded her, Radwanska gave the impression she felt with this was a Polish version of ‘one of those days’.
Cornet floated another forehand drop shot, this one brushing the net, to break for 5-1, and fittingly closed it out with a drop-shot pass combination.
Editing by Pritha Sarkar