No all-Williams final: Alize Cornet stuns Serena in Dubai semifinals

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Serena Williams

Serena Williams lost to Alize Cornet for the first time in four meetings. (Warren Little/Getty Images)

No. 26 Alize Cornet stunned top-ranked Serena Williams 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals of the Dubai Championships on Friday, spoiling an all-Williams final.

The 24-year-old Frenchwoman defeated Williams for the first time in four attempts, scored her first victory over a player ranked higher than fifth and advanced to her first hard-court final. Cornet entered the match with three wins against top-10 players but only one since 2008 — a first-round victory this week over No. 9 Simona Halep, who retired trailing 6-1, 1-1.

The surprising result came after 33-year-old Venus Williams clinched the first spot in the final with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Caroline Wozniacki. But Serena, who took a wild card into Dubai for her first tournament since a fourth-round loss at the Australian Open, wasn’t able to set up the 25th meeting between the sisters and their first final since 2009.


Alize Cornet had never beaten a top-four player until Friday. (Warren Little/Getty Images)

This marked Serena’s first loss before the final of a non-Grand Slam tournament since a quarterfinal defeat to Angelique Kerber at the 2012 Western & Southern Open.

In Saturday’s final, Cornet will look to become the eighth player to defeat both Williams sisters at the same tournament. The 44th-ranked Venus is 3-0 against Cornet, with the only victory in the last five years coming in the second round of the 2013 Australian Open. Venus, also a wild-card-entry, has rolled through top-35 players Elena Vesnina, Ana Ivanovic, Flavia Pennetta and Wozniacki without dropping a set.

Cornet played a steady and smart match against a sluggish Serena, who couldn’t find her rhythm off the ground or on her serve. Cornet finished with 11 winners and 11 unforced errors, with Williams struggling to hit through her scrambling defense. Serena had 25 winners and 35 unforced errors, giving far too many free points to her underpowered opponent.

Williams credited Cornet for playing well but also lamented her error-strewn performance.

“I think out of a 10, I was at like a negative 283, so … wow,” Serena told reporters.

Serena saved four match points while serving at 3-5 in the second set. But Cornet, who has a history of losing her nerve late in matches, held at love to close out her first victory over a top-four player in 18 tries.

“I know her, and I know she feels the moment when she has to put more into making the opponent feel that she’s still here,” Cornet said. “But I did it, too. I showed her that I would be there till the end.

“So when she was screaming louder, I was screaming louder. She was hitting harder, I was hitting harder.”

What was Cornet thinking when she got up for the changeover to serve for the match? “For once, nothing,” she said in her on-court interview. That was her smartest move of the day.

But her best move of the day? That goes to this incredible lob late in the second set:

This post has been updated.

  • Published On Feb 21, 2014

    Nice outfit Serena, I love the colors and cut!

    Suddenly, the final becomes more interesting. The Wiliams sisters are fantastic players but the matchs they played against each-other rarely produced quality tennis.


    I am rarely a "conspiracy guy" but I gotta say this...I have never seen Serena play such lack luster, crap tennis since 2012 French Open.  WTF?  Tnhose last 10 minutes she even looked like she had a hard time "selling" those DF's and crap errors!

    I can't help but think she is well aware that Venus's singles titles days are numbered, and Venus would KILL HER if she even attempted to tank and give her a next best thing...make it look good and bow out...serving her sister a likely win on a silver platter!

    Hate to think it, but that performance was laughable...sorry Alize, you are decent, but WTF?


    ChrisM.- It's clear you've no Respect for Venus & Serena and what they do. So tell us, why do you dislike the best woman's tennis the world has seen in the last 13years so much.? Let me guess.?


    @ChrisM  What an absolutely disgusting thing to suggest.  Not only do your comments disrespect the professionalism and hard work of all three women but it flies in the face of all available evidence.  Serena has been out with injury for over a month and has seemed off her game all week.  Further, Cornet played a very smart and controlled match.  Finally, Venus has been edging her way back to full health since Tokyo.  Anyone who really watches the game (or who doesn't prefer conspiracy theories) could see that her play this week has been top tier quality.   You are right, however, there is something laughable here but it's not any of the women of the WTA!


    @dbady @ChrisMRe-watch those last 10 minutes...there are times Serena has to literally wait for the ball to come back to her before she shanks a BS shot...there was no attacking going on.  Look back at Serena's many times has she lost to someone who hit 11 winners or less???  I'll give you the back issues...only thing that makes sense.

    I guarantee I watch and play more tennis than most people on this thread.  90% of my viewing is WTA, including Alize many times.  Do I really think it's a planned loss...NO..was I clearly floored and looking for any explanation of such a lackluster performance from the best woman's tennis player of the modern era...YES.  Was I let down, wanting a classic clash of the sisters, that is becoming increasingly rare...DAMN RIGHT.

    Conspiracy was, admit-tingly, a little extreme...more than likely I'd venture her back is still bothering her, AND the motivation MIGHT not have been so strong to fight it out, given the fact that she at least on some level realized this opens a door for Venus Title....maybe even on a subconscious level.  

    BTW...where the hell did I dispute Venus's form...hell, she looks great...but against Serena...that's a different form, and motivated, there is no one better...and this is coming form a Maria and Petra fan!!!!

    Now if Alize wins just as easily over Venus, I'll admit...I was way off on this one.  We'll see.


    @ChrisM @dbady  

    Watching Serena win effortlessly as well as watching her efforts to lose are

    equally interesting.