Cornet's heroics have earned her a final appearance against Venus
Williams, Serena's older sister, who earlier trounced Denmark's
Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-2 under a fading desert sun.
Few in the Aviation Stadium crowd would have given Cornet, who had
lost her previous three meetings against Serena, much chance of
denying the Williams sisters a first tour final against each other
But the Frenchwoman was unbowed as she slugged it out from the
baseline against the world number one.
"This is the biggest win of my career," Cornet said in a courtside
interview. "I had to forget about Serena on the other side of the
net and concentrate on my own game. I tried to play very deep and
The first eight games went with serve before Williams scuffed a
forehand long to give Cornet the first break of the match and the
opportunity to serve for the first set.
The 24-year-old made no mistake when her moment came, leaping to
play a baseline backhand winner down the line to claim the set, then
punching the air as the crowd bellowed her name.
Cornet was energetic while Williams looked lackluster as the
17-times grand slam singles champion committed a series of
"I'm a wee bit embarrassed," Williams, 32, told reporters. "I don't
think I have made that many errors in a match in I think at least
three, maybe four years. Out of 10, I was like a minus 283.
"I started out extremely slow. I need to be able to play better than
that if I want to be playing on the professional tour. Maybe I can
go to amateurs," joked Williams after only her second defeat in 30
Her competitive fire did awaken after Cornet took a 2-0 second set
lead. She let out prolonged roars with every winner as she surged to
3-2 ahead, the set now back on serve.
But Williams, playing her first tournament following a month out
with a back injury, could not sustain that surge.
Cornet broke again for a 4-3 lead with a drilled forehand down the
line past Williams, who was stranded at the net.
[to top of second column]
Serving to save the match at 5-3 down, Williams saved four match
points to hold eventually.
Yet Cornet was undaunted and served out the match to love after
Williams shanked a cross-court backhand long.
Cornet seemed overwhelmed, skipping in delight across the court,
although she said she was calm at the last end change.
"I said, 'OK you are a big girl; you can do it'. I was trying to
relax," she added.
Earlier, world number 44 Venus Williams made it five wins out of
five against Wozniacki in an error-strewn encounter as six of the
first nine games went against serve.
Wozniacki, 23, had been in scintillating form in Dubai, dismissing
Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki in the first round and not
dropping a set thereafter, but Williams' ground strokes proved too
The seven-times grand slam champion claimed the first set after a
deep return forced Wozniacki into scuffing a forehand into the net.
Williams, 33, cranked up the pressure in the second set, racing into
a 3-0 lead.
Wozniacki, who topped the year-ending rankings in 2010 and 2011 but
has since reached only one grand slam quarter-final, put up little
resistance, ceding the match with another forehand into the net.
Williams has yet to drop a set in Dubai, beating four higher-ranked
opponents along the way including former French Open champion Ana
"I feel like I've just gotten so much better since my first round to
now, just feeling comfortable on the court, feeling comfortable when
I'm behind, feeling comfortable when I'm in the lead," said
Williams, who has struggled for form since she was diagnosed with an
auto-immune disease in 2011.
"It reminds me a lot of when I first came on tour ... I feel like
I'm learning lessons all over again."
(Editing by Mark Meadows)
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