Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lucic-Baroni Once Again Stymies Halep in Major; Cornet Advances

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni
For the second time in eight months,Mirjana Lucic-Baroni has knocked Simona Halep out of a tennis major.  The 33-year-old German-born Croatian's second-round, straight-set, 7-5, 6-1, victory today over #3-seed Halep shocked the French Open crowd on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, as Lucic-Baroni yet again made a serious stride in her late-career resurgence at the expense of the popular and gifted Romanian.

Lucic-Baroni also stunned Halep in the second round of the  2014 U.S. Open, defeating her there in straight sets as well, 7–6(8–6), 6–2. That U.S. Open victory gained ML-B a spot in the Round of 16—the best result of her career in that tournament, and her best showing at a Grand Slam since reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon way back in 1999 at the age of 17.

ML-B pulled off another upset at the Coupe Banque Nationale event in Quebec City in 2014 by beating Venus Williams, 6–4, 6–3, setting a record for the longest gap between titles in WTA history. Her previous win happened 16 years and four months earlier at the 1998 Croatian Bol Ladies Open. 

Lucic-Baroni’s comeback is notable not only because of her age but also in light of the series of personal and financial problems that stalled her career some 15 years ago. She managed to continue to compete seriously on occasion but has also taken extended hiatuses from the sport, with only spotty results when she did enter tournaments. A minor breakthrough in her rejuvenation was achieved in 2012 at Wimbledon when she reached the third round as a qualifier, including a surprise defeat of ninth-seeded Marion Bartoli. 

Alize Cornet
Meanwhile today, over on Court 1,  #29-seeded Alize Cornet defeated the Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru, 6-2, 7-5, in a spirited match that threatened to go to a third set until the hard-hitting Dulgheru failed to send the second set to a tie-breaker, blowing a 40-0 advantage at 5-6.

With the partisan crowd chanting “Ah-lee-ZAY, Ah-lee-ZAY,” the 25-year-old Cornet—with her brunette ponytail, jittery on-court antics and self-affirming vocal enthusiasms—looked more like a teenage American bobby-soxer than France’s probable best hope for a French Open title. Yet she again displayed her admirably tough defensive play and uncanny ability to get to nearly every ball sent her way.

Cornet now faces Lucic-Baroni in third-round play. 

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