Dominika Cibulkova scored a fifth consecutive win over Kristina Mladenovic to progress into the quarter-finals of the Connecticut Open in New Haven. This was their toughest match to date with Cibulkova winning through an entertaining tussle, 2-6 7-6(1) 7-5. Both players had played tough three setters in the first round, but especially Cibulkova who had beaten Tsvetana Pironkova, 7-6(6) 6-7(5) 6-3 in three hours and 11 minutes in the first match of the tournament. Cibulkova started this match with an avalanche of unforced errors. Mladenovic though, played a superb opening set; she was extremely patient from the baseline and also served well, getting 78% of first serves in.
Cibulkova improved in the second set and earnt the first break with Mladenovic’s concentration slipping a tad. Cibulkova led 5-2 in the second set but the Frenchwoman battled back, saving a set point to level up at 5-5. Mladenovic’s serve got her out of trouble towards the end of the second set but that didn’t extend into the tiebreak as Cibulkova started to hit harder and with more gusto, overall playing an excellent tiebreak to force a deciding set.
The third set was a real battle and there were many great points. It looked like Mladenovic’s serve may give her the edge; she finally converted a break point in the decider on a Cibulkova double fault. However, Mladenovic returned the favour in the next game with a double fault of her own on break point. Mladenovic’s patience began to waver as errors started to creep into her game. At the same time, Cibulkova’s intensity rose and her striking was punchier, pushing Mladenovic back. The Slovakian player broke through at 5-5 and despite quickly going down *0-30 when trying to serve it out, won four points in a row to seal the win with Mladenovic’s game faltering.
Cibulkova is still on the comeback trail after spending several months on the sidelines having had surgery on her achilles. She made a really decent comeback in Eastbourne where she beat Lucie in the second round. Up until New Haven, that was the only tournament where she had won back-to-back matches. It’s hard not to admire her fighting qualities on court which was one of the key factors that saw her overcome Mladenovic. Cibulkova’s down at 58 in the rankings but it’s encouraging to see her playing so many tournaments and a good indication that she is fully fit. It will take some time to get back to where she belongs in the rankings but this has already been a positive week for Domi. She has spent just shy of six hours on the court in two matches but will get a day off before facing either Lucie Safarova or Irina-Camelia Begu in the quarter-finals on Thursday.