Dubai: Alize Cornet, who sensationally beat world number one Serena Williams in last year`s semi-final, escaped from danger in one of the Dubai Open`s longest ever women`s matches on Sunday.
The 15th-seeded Frenchwoman trailed 0-3 in the final set against Kirsten Flipkens, before winning 6-0, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 against the former Wimbledon semi-finalist from Belgium.
The match lasted three hour and 11 minutes, even though the first set took a mere 20 minutes and although Cornet appeared to have reached match point in the second set tie-break when her lob landed on the line at six points all.
But the ball was wrongly called out and Cornet, who had already used her allocation of three video reviews, was unable to challenge it.
After that the match lasted another up-and-down 70 minutes and Cornet, 25, was still cross about the decision after an emotionally draining victory.
"You know what I told the chair umpire?" said Cornet, who lost last year`s final in straight sets to Venus Williams.
"I told her, `when you will see the replay, you will think of me, you will think of me`".
Earlier Flavia Pennetta, the former top 20 Italian, provided a substantial payback to organisers, who had given her a wild card, by recovering dramatically to win her first round match.
Pennetta`s attempts to enter the $2.5 million tournament had only happened after the official deadline, and after getting her belated acceptance the 32-year-old responded with an emotional 2-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 win over Germany`s Julia Goerges, also a former top 20 player, to score her first victory of the year.
Goerges, 26, had also been fortunate to make the main draw, qualifying only as a lucky loser, but seemed certain to make further progress when she led by a set and 5-2 in the second."I was almost crying on the court - I was feeling so bad," admitted Pennetta.
"Sometimes you don`t feel good at the beginning of the year. My good tennis just was not coming."
She slipped to 15-40 in the eighth game of the second set, but somehow conjured two steadier rallies to save those two match points, and then saved two more after Goerges got advantage points.
After saving those two as well Pennetta claimed: "I don`t know how I did it.
"I was just playing until the last point. I wasn`t playing well but I was just playing with what I have.
"When you fight you can get closer to a good level. My coach says I am really tough, but it isn`t easy to say what I really did (to survive) there."
Pennetta then appeared to take advantage of Goerges` disappointment as she followed her escape from match points by breaking serve immediately, then repeating the achievement, and going on to dominate the tie-break.
When Pennetta then reached 4-1 in the final set, the match looked nearly over, but Goerges gave it a twist by getting the score back on serve at 3-4 before playing two disappointing service games to concede defeat.
By then Pennetta`s standard had gone up - though "it`s still not good yet," she said.
"At least I had two hours and ten minutes on court," concluded Pennetta, who next plays the winner of Wang Qiang of China and Kurumi Nara of Japan.
Earlier there were wins for Samantha Stosur, the former US Open champion from Australia, who earned a second round meeting with Caroline Wozniacki, the world number five from Denmark; also for Svetlana Kuznetsova, the former French and US Open champion from Russia, and for Sabine Lisicki, the former Wimbledon finalist from Germany.
Titleholder Venus Williams begins her defence Tuesday against Belinda Bencic, the 17-year-old former French Open and Wimbledon junior champion from Switzerland.