By Eleanor Crooks, PA Tennis Correspondent, Melbourne
Perseverance finally paid off for an emotional Alize Cornet as she reached her first grand slam quarter-final at the 63rd attempt.
The Frenchwoman, who celebrated her 32nd birthday on Saturday, dropped to the court in tears at the end of a gruelling 6-4 3-6 6-4 victory over Simona Halep in sweltering conditions at the Australian Open.
Cornet has played in every grand slam tournament for the last 15 years and this was her sixth trip to the fourth round but she had never previously managed to go further.
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The first of those came 13 years ago at Melbourne Park when she held two match points against Dinara Safina only to lose.
Fittingly it was Jelena Dokic, the woman she would have played had she won that day, who conducted a touching post-match interview.
“It feels amazing,” said Cornet, who revealed after beating third seed Garbine Muguruza in the second round that this could be her final year on tour.
“The battle that we had with this heat. After 30 minutes we were both dying on the court. We kept going for two and a half hours with all our heart.
“Congrats to Simona because I know she struggled a lot. I admire her so much. To beat her today to go to my first quarter-final is just a dream come true. I don’t know what to say. It’s just magic. It’s never too late to try again.”
Cornet looked in control at a set and 3-1 up but former finalist Halep is one of tennis’ grittiest competitors and she responded with a run of six games in a row.
Both women were clearly feeling the heat but that did not stop them engaging in lung-busting rallies and dragging each other all over the court.
Cornet made the breakthrough to lead 4-3 in the decider and had two match points on the Halep serve two games later only for the Romanian to hold.
Nerves were evident from both but Cornet held hers long enough to make it across the finish line.
In the last eight she will face 2019 semi-finalist Danielle Collins, who also came through a lengthy battle, beating 19th seed Elise Mertens 4-6 6-4 6-4.