Skip to main content

'Cute turtle' to blame for Serena Williams upset loss?

updated 1:17 PM EST, Fri February 21, 2014
Alize Cornet pulled off one of the biggest tennis upsets of the year by defeating Serena Williams in Dubai.
Alize Cornet pulled off one of the biggest tennis upsets of the year by defeating Serena Williams in Dubai.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Alize Cornet beats world No. 1 Serena Williams in straight sets in Dubai
  • The French No. 1 had lost all three of her previous matches against Williams
  • Williams was playing her first tournament since suffering a back injury
  • Cornet prevents an all Williams final after Venus Williams earlier won her semifinal

(CNN) -- After Venus Williams beat Caroline Wozniacki at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, it looked as if a first all Williams tennis final in five years was on the cards.

But someone forgot to tell Alize Cornet.

The Frenchwoman stunned a sluggish Serena Williams in the second semifinal Friday, meaning a Williams versus Williams clash for silverware -- they haven't met in a finale since the year-end championships in 2009 -- will have to wait.

It was Serena Williams' first tournament since a back injury hampered the 17-time grand slam champion at the Australian Open, and she accepted a wildcard from organizers to fend off the boredom from just practicing.

Perhaps rust was an issue. Serena Williams likened her play against Cornet in the 64 64 reverse to a 'turtle' and gave herself the harshest of grades.

"I started out extremely slow," Williams was quoted as saying by the WTA's website. "I have actually been looking at a turtle every day -- it's a really cute turtle in the hotel. Maybe I was too influenced by it. I need to play better than that if I want to be playing on the professional tour. Maybe I can go to the amateurs.

Li Na wins 'dream' trophy
Serena Williams' inner circle
Williams sisters show off dancing skills
Serena Williams: 'I'm in awe' of Venus

"I haven't felt good this whole week, to be honest, just from my first match.

"She played really well. I didn't play well. I tried, though. I just kept hitting errors. I don't think I've made that many errors in a match in at least three, maybe four years. I think out of a 10, I was at, like, -283, so... wow."

Cornet, France's No. 1, had lost all three of her previous encounters against Serena Williams and was 0-17 lifetime against the top four, but she served impeccably against the American.

She took advantage of Williams' normally strong second serve, winning 62 percent of those points, and did her usual scrambling from the baseline.

"It's my best ever win, but I haven't realized it yet," Cornet told reporters. "I played a very good match. I didn't even realize who I was playing and that's the way I had to be.

"I forgot it was Serena on the other side and just got on with my game."

Venus Williams has been slowed by Sjogren's Syndrome, injuries and age but the elder Williams continues to flourish in Dubai, winning her last 14 matches.

The 33-year-old owned a 4-0 record against former world No. 1 Wozniacki -- without losing a set -- prior to the semifinals and once again the Dane was overpowered, losing this time 63 62.

"I feel like I've just gotten so much better since my first round to now, feeling comfortable on the court, feeling comfortable when I'm behind, feeling comfortable when I'm in the lead," Williams was quoted as saying by the WTA's website. "It reminds me of when I first came on tour, just having to learn a lot, and I feel like I'm learning those lessons all over again.

"I had a lot of tough losses, and I realized I had to go through it. Even if I didn't necessarily get the result I wanted, I realized I was getting better.

"For me, and for every player, you just have to keep stepping up to the line and believing in yourself."

If Cornet downs Venus Williams, she would become one of the few players to beat the sisters at the same tournament. Cornet, though, trails Venus Williams 3-0 in their head-to-heads.

Read: Serena stunned by Ana in Oz

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:20 AM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
At the 2009 Australian Open, French men's tennis was the talk of the town.
updated 2:00 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - APRIL 14: Rafael Nadal of Spain sails a boat during day two of the ATP Monte Carlo Rolex Masters Tennis at Monte-Carlo Sporting Club on April 14, 2014 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal may be most at home on a clay tennis court, but he has always found comfort on the sea.
updated 7:07 AM EDT, Fri March 21, 2014
Tennis star Venus Williams reveals how she is beating the autoimmune disease that derailed her career.
updated 5:14 AM EST, Wed March 5, 2014
After two decades dedicated to the game, Amelie Mauresmo wants a second life -- one away from tennis.
Rafael Nadal of Spain wipes his face after losing his men's final match against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland during day 14 of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.
Almost five years to the day after reducing Roger Federer to tears at the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal shed a few in his own loser's speech.
updated 9:48 PM EST, Sat February 1, 2014
Li Na outperformed Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open, but can she now surpass the Russian as the world's richest female athlete?
Roger Federer may have lost again to Rafael Nadal in the business end of a grand slam, but he can take some heart from yet another record says CNN's Will Edmonds.
updated 8:58 AM EST, Tue January 21, 2014
Roger Federer and Stefan Edberg, Novak Djokovic and Boris Becker -- today's tennis stars are teaming up with past legends of the game.
updated 1:59 PM EST, Wed January 15, 2014
Can't stand the heat of the first tennis grand slam of 2014? Then you clearly haven't been doing enough Bikram yoga.
After nearly a decade without any real change at the top of men's tennis, CNN's Will Edmonds looks at next generation of future stars.
updated 8:14 AM EST, Thu January 9, 2014
Ana Ivanovic is still seeking to rediscover the form that took her to the top of the rankings -- but she has found a new lease of life.
updated 6:42 AM EST, Mon January 6, 2014
As a teen sensation, Bernard Tomic had the tennis world at his feet -- but he's in danger of blowing it, says Australian great Pat Rafter.
ADVERTISEMENT