France's Alize Cornet (right) gets emotional as Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament's director Amelie Mauresmo hugs her after her women's singles match on Court Philippe-Chatrier against China's Zheng Qinwen at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on Tuesday. Image Credit: AFP

Paris: Frenchwoman Alize Cornet’s career ended on Tuesday after her record-extending 69th consecutive Grand Slam appearance at the French Open, the tournament where she made her debut aged 15 and was once a ball girl.

Cornet was no match for China’s Australian Open runner-up Zheng Qinwen on Court Philippe Chatrier in the first round, losing 6-2, 6-1.

She made her debut at Roland Garros in 2005 and has not missed a Grand Slam tournament since the 2006 US Open.

The 34-year-old’s run of consecutive appearances at the majors smashed the previous women’s record of 62 set by Japan’s Ai Sugiyama.

“Emotionally it was not easy,” said Cornet on her decision to retire after a 20-year professional career.

“Some days I was really excited about retirement and some other days I was very scared and very uncertain. So overall, I feel in peace today about it, and so I’m very happy about that decision.”

Cornet reached a career-high ranking of 11th in 2009 and enjoyed a surprise run to the 2022 Australian Open quarter-finals, beating Simona Halep along the way.

Cornet’s career will also be remembered for a run of three successive wins over Serena Williams in 2014 — including dumping the 23-time Grand Slam champion out of Wimbledon in the third round.

“The quarter-finals in Australia was the source of a lot of emotions,” she said on making the last eight at a Slam for the first time at the 63rd attempt.

“My win over Serena was strong, intense, it was a source of great joy. But the quarter-finals — I had been running after this quarter-final for such a long time, and also winning against Simona Halep with that heat, well, it was overwhelming.

“I think I will remember that.”

Cornet ended her career on home soil with a 20th French Open appearance.

She was also a ball girl at the tournament as a child, including for a match featuring former world number one Amelie Mauresmo, now the tournament director who presented her with an award on Tuesday.

“It was wonderful,” she said of being a ball girl.

“It was a first experience where I was close to the players. When I think back now, Amelie Mauresmo is handing me the end-of-career trophy, and she’s been there all the time. I think about all the journey behind me.”

Cornet’s only previous meeting with Zheng was when she retired injured during their third-round match in Paris two years ago while trailing 6-0, 3-0.

She admitted she feared going out on a sour note when she found herself 4-0 down again in the first set.

“I didn’t want to end my career with such a horrible defeat. But then when I had my first game, I managed to be back on track again.

“Well, I still lost anyway. It’s not like I won in any way, but it’s better than 6-0, 6-0.”