“It’s never too late to try” Alize Cornet – The story of a true champion
When we think of tennis, big names come to mind: Nadal, Federer, Serena… If you ask many people a definition of a tennis champion, these names are said without hesitation.
However, if our definition of a champion is limited to whoever wins the trophy then there will be 126 losers this Australian Open and only 1-2 winners of each category. Is that why we play sport? Put it another way, how many fails would you endure before you can have the first success? Logically speaking, many athletes would say they keep going until they get there. But the reality is so many of us are giving up right when the first few hurdles come our way.
That is not the story of Alize Cornet. I must admit that I had not even heard of Alize before the Australian Open 2022. But what she is achieving is as amazing as any other champions. It ONLY takes her 16 years to be in a quarter final of a grand slam. The last time when she had a similar opportunity was 13 years ago in the Australian Open 2009. Alize broke a tennis record of 62 Grand slam appearance without getting in the last eight. Along the way she defeated big names like Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep this year.
A reporter asked her an interesting question about how to maintain motivation, desire and belief throughout the years to keep playing. The answer is interesting: Alize does not believe as much as she used to, and in a way puts less expectation on the winning. Rather, she keeps working on her skills while continuing to look for the fun factor to play tennis. She continues playing tennis because she loves what she does, and she leaves the end result to faith. All she keeps focusing on is doing her best each day.
While it may sound like a simple answer to some, this is actually what sport psychologists are working very hard with athletes of all sports to gain this mental state. A mindset that does not put heavy pressure on winning or losing. That mindset focuses on having fun while playing and doing the best of an activity that they love. A child-like mindset that I have nothing to lose and everything to gain just by doing what I do.
Another interesting fact that Alize shared after the game was how gruelling the heat was. After 30 minutes, both Alize and Simone Halep were so exhausted, yet they kept going for 2 hours and a half. By then, the heat and exhaustion shut down her thinking and all she could do was to keep playing. That was one factor that could have helped her go through and win. Overthinking and thinking too much about the future at the crucial game point is a definite killer for winning. There is a good lesson to learn from what Alize shared.
After 16 years on the tour (and always ranking in the top 100), Alize finally achieved a next level goal that she has always wanted. If this is how the story ends, it is already amazing. But what she did next surpassed anything else.
In 2009, at the peak of her career, Alize was 2 points away from winning a match to go to the quarter-final (and meet Jelena Dokic at the Australian Open 2009). Yet she could not make it happen. Thirteen year later, Alize made it to her first ever quarter final, and Jelena is the interviewer. In the most important win of her life, she decided to share that spotlight moment with Jelena and congratulate Jelena on how she overcame the abusive father issue, the weight and depression issue and the online trolling issue to do what Jelena does. This act (in my mind) shows what a true champion she is. Not only can she be brave and resilient on the course, Alize is also humble and deeply caring for her fellow tennis player. With so much drama going on pre-Australian Open about unvaccination issues with a player, the Alize – Jelena moment is a moment to remember for this Australian Open 2022.