Australian Open: Alize Cornet stuns Simona Halep to reach first Grand Slam quarter-final

French player into last-eight on 63rd main draw appearance and takes on American Collins for a place in the semi-finals

Alize Cornet celebrates after beating Simona Halep in the Australian Open fourth round. Getty Images
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Alize Cornet delivered a defensive masterclass to stun 14th seed Simona Halep and continue her impressive run at the Australian Open on Monday.

Cornet, 32, held off a fightback from the 2018 finalist to claim a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory after 2hr and 33mins inside a sweltering Rod Laver Arena. The French world No 61 next takes on Danielle Collins in the quarter-finals after the American came through her own marathon match, defeating Belgium's Elise Mertens 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in nine minutes short of three hours.

Cornet, who reached a career-high No 11 in the rankings in 2009, has now officially produced her best-ever Grand Slam tennis having reached the quarter-finals of a major for the first time on her 63rd main draw appearance.

But Cornet could have booked her last-eight place much quicker. She led by a set and 3-1 before losing five consecutive games and 16 straight points to send the match to a decider.

However, Cornet managed to halt Halep's momentum in the third set as both players held firm on serve, until the Romanian was broken in the seventh game.

Halep then saved two match points on her serve in the ninth game before Cornet clinched the match in the 10th. She dropped to her knees and clasped her hands together as she looked up to her support team when Halep netted a return.

Cornet has now eliminated three seeded players in succession following victories over Slovenian 29th seed Tamara Zidasek and Spanish third seed Garbine Muguruza.

"It feels amazing. That battle I had with Simona today and the heat. After 30 minutes we were both dying and we kept going for two-and-a-half hours," said Cornet.

"Simona is such a fighter and an example for me. To be able to go to my first quarter-final is a dream come true."

Collins, meanwhile, stayed on track to match her 2019 Melbourne Park heroics as she battled through an epic against Mertens.

Danielle Collins is through to the Australian Open quarter-finals after outlasting Elise Mertens. Getty Images

The 27th seed outlasted 19th seeded Mertens in a 2hr 51min marathon in sweltering heat on Rod Laver Arena.

"It was really tough for me, I played a long match as well the other day so I had to make a lot of technical adjustments to be able to get myself moving around," said Collins. "That was a big challenge."

She is the third American woman to make the last eight, with Madison Keys and Jessica Pegula also through.

Collins was an Australian Open semi-finalist three years ago, but she has failed to match that effort since.

However, she clinched her maiden WTA Tour titles in San Jose and Palermo last year to rejuvenate her career after a tough start to 2021 when she needed surgery to remove a cyst.

She had a dream start, holding comfortably then breaking Mertens. But the Belgian soon warmed to the task and pushed Collins hard on her next service game.

The American held on but Mertens worked her first break point and converted for 1-3 when Collins netted then threw her racquet to the ground in frustration.

Iga Swiatek celebrates after beating Sorana Cirstea in three sets at Melbourne Park. EPA

Constantly berating herself, Collins began to wilt in the heat as Mertens stayed cool to win five games in a row and take an enthralling set.

But she composed herself at the changeover and raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set as she found her groove again and put constant pressure on the Mertens serve.

The rallies were again long and Collins prevailed to take it to a decider, where momentum shifted as they exchanged breaks before Mertens ended with a whimper, double-faulting on match point.

Poland's Iga Swiatek, the seventh seed, fought back from a set down to beat Romania's Sorana Cirstea 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 and reach the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park for the first time.

Still just 20, Swiatek has been remarkably consistent in the majors. The match against Cirstea was a sixth consecutive appearance in the second week of a Grand Slam.

"This match was so much energy and it was hard to stay calm," said Swiatek, who was tearful at the end. "For me a week without crying is not a week. During the match my stress level was high ... I cry when I lose and I cry when I win."

Swiatek will now take on Kaia Kanepi after the Estonian veteran stunned Belarusian world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka 5-7, 6-2, 7-6.

Updated: January 24, 2022, 1:41 PM