Alize Cornet will be looking to become only the eighth woman in history to defeat both Williams sisters at the same tournament, after the Frenchwoman pulled off the biggest victory of her career, taking out Serena Williams in the Dubai semi-finals 6-4 6-4.
Cornet, who faces the older Williams sister Venus in the final on Saturday, admits she has a tough challenge ahead of her – mentally digesting her huge win over the world No1 as well as preparing for the title match.
“I’ve never beat a No 1 in the world, so I don’t know my reaction,” said an ecstatic Cornet after the match. “But I know that I will stay in the same kind of spirit, just following the tactic that we do with my coach every day. It’s never easy to play a final. I know that. Venus is for sure more used to it than me.
“There is two things: I just beat the No1, and I have to play the final tomorrow, so it’s a double thing. I think I can handle it. I’m 24 years old. I have a lot of experience now on the tour, so hopefully I can just manage everything and make it work.”
Cornet stepped on the court against Serena last night as the clear underdog, having lost all three of her previous matches to the American and being placed 25 spots below her in the rankings.
But she started the match exuding confidence and did not face a single break point throughout the entire first set.
Cornet got her only break opportunity in the ninth game and took it when Serena sent a backhand long for a 5-4 lead. She served out the set with a brilliant down the line backhand winner and quickly went up 2-0 in the second set.
It looked like a Serena comeback was in the works when the top seed broke back to level at 2-2 but an unfazed Cornet broke again three games later with a forehand passing shot that wrong-footed her opponent.
Serena saved four match points to hold for 4-5 but it was all over moments later when Cornet held her nerve, serving to love to take the match on a wide backhand from the American.
Cornet admitted that the match was almost like a screaming contest in the end: “I know her, and I know she’s a very strong player. She feels the moment when she has to put more to make the opponent feel that she’s still here.
"That’s what she did. But I did it, too. I showed her that I would be there till the end. So when she was screaming loud, I was screaming louder. She was hitting hard, I was hitting harder.”
Earlier in the day, Venus said her current battle to return to the top of the game has reminded her of her early days on tour.
The American has been enjoying an incredible week in Dubai and booked her spot in the final after dominating No8 seed Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-2 in 81 minutes.
“Back to back matches I don’t think are easy for anyone, but for me in general I need back to back matches,” said Venus. “I feel like I’ve just gotten so much better since my first round to now, just feeling comfortable on the court, feeling comfortable when I’m behind, feeling comfortable when I’m in the lead."