The record run is over. After 37 matches won, Iga Swiatek has lost, to giant-killing Alizé Cornet, who took her out on a day of shocks, 6-4 6-2, on the World No 1 on No 1 Court at Wimbledon, while others to fall on Saturday included Coco Gauff, Barbora Krejcikova and Jessica Pegula, but 2018 champion Simona Halep and Elena Rybakina both advanced to the Last 16.
I am like the good wine in France. Good wine always ages well. Alizé Cornet
In front of the packed crowd, Cornet, a 32-year-old Frenchwoman, played herself into the 4th-round at The Championships for the first time since 2014, when she stunned the then World No 1 Serena Williams, 1-6 6-3 6-4, to advance to her first Round of 16 at The Championships.
“It reminds me of the time I beat Serena on the same court, eight years ago exactly,” Cornet said on court after the win. “This court is a lucky charm for me.
“I think these kind of matches are what I’m living for, what I’m practicing for every day. I knew I could win it. I had the belief.”
There was no such belief in Swiatek, who came into Wimbledon with few expectations and no grass court match practice, dropping a set against lucky loser Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove in the previous round, only her 3rd set in 29 matches, and never looking entirely comfortable.
She says she still needs to learn how to play on grass, a surface that Cornet has vast experience on, and the Frenchwoman used it to great effect in her 62nd consecutive appearance in a Grand Slam main draw.
The firm favourite for the title, Swiatek was, perhaps, the only one who felt she couldn’t make it, and facing Cornet proved a step too far, probably prompting a degree of profound relief that the 37-match streak has now ended, despite the obvious disappointment of another Wimbledon loss.
“Usually I am hard on myself,” Swiatek told the media. “Here, I know how I felt before matches, I know how I felt when I was practicing.
“Let’s just say that I didn’t feel like I’m in a best shape. So I’m kind of aware that this could happen. Maybe it’s not the right attitude to have, but it is like it is.
“I tried many things to feel better on court, on grass court, but it didn’t really work out.
“That’s why I’m not even hard on myself because, like, it’s kind of logic that if I couldn’t find it even on practices, I’m not going to find it on a match.”
The World No 1 admitted she still needs to time to process the significance and impact of her 6-title winning streak, so rest and relaxation will certainly be on the menu.
Her next appearance on court will be at a charity exhibition for Ukrainian relief in Krakow, which also will feature Agnieszka Radwanska and Elina Svitolina.
“When we were in States we thought that maybe this would be a nice thing to do,” Swiatek said. “It’s really exciting because I feel like we don’t have enough events like that in Poland.
“I really want to show people tennis from a different perspective. I hope it’s going to be fun.”
On Saturday, Cornet was on song and Swiatek started slowly, dropping the first 3 games before battling back and taking the next 2, and while the two split the next 4 games, the Frenchwoman eventually won the first set after 51 minutes, making just 5 unforced errors, while the top seed misfired on 17.
Swiatek looked primed for one of her trademark come-backs in the second, as she broke early for a 2-0 lead, but the Pole couldn’t clean up her miscues, and immediately ceded back her advantage, allowing Cornet to run away with the match from there.
One particularly beautiful drop-shot winner had the No 1 Court crowd on their feet as a poised Cornet stuck form to the task in hand, winning the next 6 games to close out the 93-minute match.
“It’s a big pride for me to win this match against Iga,” Cornet said after her win. “I mean, what she’s done this year is out of this world, and I can’t believe I’m the one that actually broke the streak.
“This is amazing. I’m very happy to be in the second week again for the second time.”
Having also knocked out Simona Halep in the Australian Open in January, Cornet had the top seed on the back foot from the start, and an error-strewn Swiatek never settled as her game unnravelled.
The Pole made 33 unforced errors in an uncharacteristically sloppy display, losing her first match since her defeat to Jelena Ostapenko in February at Dubai, which set her off on her amazing 37-match win streak, the longest in the history of women’s professional tennis since Martina Hingis in 1997.
It was half the number of matches won by Martina Navratilova in 1984, though, who was undefeated for 74 consecutive matches.
Cornet had good reason to believe she could be the one to stop Swiatek, having come into Wimbledon off a semi-final run in Bad Homburg, where lost in 3 tight sets to eventual champion Caroline Garcia, and ousting No 27 seed Yulia Putintseva from Kazakstan in straight sets in the first round.
Her experience and varied repertoire left Swiatek confused as it brought the Pole’s win run to an end at Wimbledon.
“I kept telling myself, well, the streak, I was telling myself someone would have to break the streak eventually, and why not me?” she said. “I thought that, here, was the best chance for me to do it. Maybe it was her less good surface.”
The 32-year-old played a clean match to unwind Swiatek’s power game, finishing with 17 winners to just 7 unforced errors, while Swiatek fired 21 winners to her 33 miscues.
In January, Cornet had told reporters this may be her final season but is enjoying one of the best Grand Slam seasons of her career, prompting questions as to whether she is now changing her mind.
“No,” Cornet said. “I think that’s why I’m playing so good, it’s because I know it’s almost the end.
“I’m giving everything. I might just play till Roland Garros next year. That’s the plan. But, no, I’m not considering getting back on this decision. We’ll talk about it next year, see which position mentally I’m in.
“I just want to take it match by match. Early when I was walking to Court 1, I was smiling because, ‘OK, that might be the last time I’m walking to Court No. 1, so please just enjoy yourself, have fun, take all the good energy’.
“The belief was there since the beginning.”
A slender 5-foot-8, Cornet doesn’t generate much power of her own, but she re-directs well, and can do everything else, and she showed off all of those skills on Saturday.
She scrambled across the baseline, and forced Swiatek to hit three, four, and five high-risk shots to win a point, while her defensive lobs floated perfectly into the far corners of the court and neutralised the rallies.
Cornet changed the pace and varied her spin, winning points with drop-shots and drop-volleys as she converted 6 of 6 break points.
“I think I’m a little more relaxed when I’m the underdog,” Cornet said. “I think I have nothing to lose, and that’s where I have nothing to lose that I’m the most dangerous. I play my shots, like, more relaxed, I hit better from the baseline.”
“I don’t know, I don’t have any parasite in my thoughts.”
Later, Swiatek attributed her poor performance against Cornet to tactical confusion.
Cornet now will play Ajla Tomljanovic in the 4th-round, who upset No.13 seed Barbora Krejcikova, 2-6 6-4 6-3.
Last summer, Tomljanovic reached the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time at Wimbledon, where she was beaten by eventual champion and fellow Aussie Ash Barty, and a year later, she is back in Week 2 after staging a valiant fight-back against the 2021 French Open champion from Czech Republic.
The 29-year old looked to be heading for the exit after Krejcikova dominated the opening set, pinning Tomljanovic deep behind the baseline with inch-perfect groundstrokes and looking every bit an easy winner.
Krejcikova entered the match having scored successive wins for the first time since reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals in January and finally free of a nagging elbow injury.
The former World No 2’s mix of clean hitting from the back of the court with delightful touches at the net had Tomljanovic searching for answers.
The Aussie grit, though, defying her World No 44 ranking, fought back to take the second with a fine display of controlled aggression, clinching it with a back-hand drive down the line.
The Czech’s lengthy toilet break and subsequent request for a trainer did not deflect the Tomljanovic momentum, who was growing in confidence despite the long delays.
She grabbed the only break of the deciding set in the 6th game, then stayed cool to fend off 2 break points of her own to close out the contest after 2 hours and 6 minutes.
“I always felt like I put myself in a position to beat the top girls,” she said later. “But a lot of times I didn’t get over the line.
“And last year every match was tough. I got over the line in the tough moments. It’s just building on that experience.”