Defending Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina has booked her spot in the third round at the All England Club after a distressing incident that saw her opponent, Alizé Cornet, leave the court in tears. The French tennis star – sporting a heavily strapped right leg – went down in agony after slipping at a crucial moment in the second set. She bravely fought on but ultimately succumbed in a 6-2 7-6 (7/2) defeat.
Cornet was outclassed by Kazakhstan’s defending champ in the first set, but was taking the match to Ryabkina in a thrilling second stanza. The scores were locked at 5-5 on a service game for Rybakina that had already stretched past 10 minutes long.
Unfortunately, that’s when tragedy struck for Cornet as the 33-year-old took a nasty slip on the grass, appearing to awkwardly twist her knee as she went crashing to the ground. Cornet let out a chilling scream and burst into tears, before clutching at her hip and laying face-down and motionless on court to the horror of spectators.
Rybakina quickly went over to check on her stricken opponent, who eventually managed to pull herself back onto her feet before taking a lengthy medical timeout where she was given painkillers in a desperately brave attempt to continue playing. When Cornet did return, her movement was severely limited and Rybakina quickly took advantage to go 6-5 up.
Incredibly, Cornet played through the pain and even held serve to force a second set tiebreak, before inevitably falling to the World No.3. Rybakina again showed her class by crossing onto Cornet’s side to congratulate her visibly shaken opponent after the match, and saving her from having to hobble to the net.
Tennis world rocked by distressing scenes
Viewers were left in some distress watching the awful scenes unfold, with the tennis world praying for Cornet’s speedy recovery. The French woman was flooded with messages of support on social media as heartbroken Wimbledon viewers commended her incredible bravery.
The bravery of Alize Cornet’s play after injury is incredible at Wimbledon.
— Mike Dailly (@mikedailly) July 6, 2023
Awful to see Cornet go down like that #Wimbledon
— Nigel Margett (@Nigel_The_Ram) July 6, 2023
Heartbreaking scenes on Centre as a tearful Cornet gets helped to her seat after a nasty fall. So sad.
— Jacqui Martin 😷 🧡 💙 (@jackolinemartin) July 6, 2023
Elena Rybakina sets up Katie Boulter showdown
Rybakina’s victory mean she will now face wildcard Katie Boulter, Britain’s last remaining hope in the women’s draw. Elsewhere, Russian teen sensation Mirra Andreeva reached the third round in what is her first professional grass-court tournament after her 10th-seeded opponent Barbora Krejcikova had to withdraw due to injury while trailing 6-3 4-0.
Injury also hampered French Open finalist Karolina Muchova, beaten 4-6 7-5 6-1 by Jule Niemeier after slipping early in the third set. French fifth-seed Caroline Garcia dropped the first set before roaring back to overcome 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez of Canada, while two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka brushed aside Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska.
Marketa Vondrousova, another former French Open finalist (2019), upset 12th-seeded Russian Veronika Kudermetova while Croatia’s Donna Vekic rallied to knock out former US Open champion Sloane Stephens in three sets. Elina Svitolina maintained her good form following a maternity break. The Ukrainian wildcard beat 28th seed Elise Mertens 6-1 1-6 6-1.
The win sets up an intriguing clash with American Sofia Kenin, who eased past China’s Wang Xinyu 6-4 6-3. Bianca Andreescu had been waiting since Tuesday to play her first-round match due to rain and she came through 6-3 3-6 6-2 against Anna Bondar. American fourth-seed Jessica Pegula needed only 62 minutes to dispatch Spain’s Cristina Bucsa 6-1 6-4.