Dubai: Frenchwoman Alize Cornet realised the biggest dream of her career when she denied world number one Serena Williams a first-ever Dubai Duty Free Women’s final appearance with a shock 6-4, 6-4 win late on Friday.
Playing the crowd favourite, Cornet played some aggressive tennis from the start and kept up the pressure to eventually get the better of her childhood hero in an hour and 22 minutes.
The 24-year-old will now meet Serena’s sister Venus in Saturday’s final after the older Williams earlier packed off another former world number one and Dubai champion Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-2.
After Venus’ success, there was huge anticipation of an all-Williams clash in the final, which would have been the first ever final meeting of two wild cards in the 14-year history of this tournament. The last time two wild cards made it to a final anywhere was at the 2010 Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany, where Justine Henin beat Samantha Stosur in three sets.
But the second semi-final refused to follow the form book as Cornet ran out as winner against her far more illustrious opponent.
“This is indeed the biggest win of my career,” Cornet said. “I just kept my focus so high during that I didn’t even realise it was Serena I had beaten until after the match. I think I played very good.
“My game-plan was simply to play the ball very deep and just keep focused on fighting for every point. It worked perfectly for me.”
It was a close affair early on, but it was Cornet who was the first to break in the ninth game for a 5-4 lead, after which she served out for the first set 6-4 in 37 minutes.
Cornet then broke in the first game of the second set and then held for 2-0. But, egged on by the crowd, Serena broke back in the fourth and then held to lead for the first time at 3-2.
With nothing to lose, Cornet went on the offensive and broke again in the seventh and then held for 5-3. Serena dug deep and saved four match points and held serve for 5-4 before Cornet served out set and match.
“Venus has impressed me this week, but I have just beaten the better ranked of the two sisters. I will just go out and try my best against her [Venus] as well,” Cornet added.