Friday’s most anticipated second round match at Indian Wells will see the number three seed, Agnieszka Radwanska face a stern early test against the world number 57, Dominika Cibulkova.
As unseeded players go, Cibulkova is probably up there as the player that seeds will most want to avoid. Cibulkova’s ranking plummeted to 66, her lowest since 2007, after dropping her quarter-final points at the Australian Open with a first round loss to Kristina Mladenovic. Cibulkova is currently defending no points up to June after skipping four months of the 2015 season to have surgery to cure an achilles problem. Recent form suggests Cibulkova is steadily climbing back to her best; February results included quarter-finals in St. Petersburg and a run to the final in Acapulco.
Cibulkova enjoyed a very comfortable first round win in Indian Wells over the world number 113, Katerina Siniakova, 6-2 6-0 in one hour. It was a very steady performance by Cibulkova who finished the match with 11 winners to 7 unforced errors. Siniakova showed some promise early on with some competent net approaches but her success coming forward tailed off as the match progressed; she finished with just 5 out of 12 successful net approaches. Siniakova’s error count, almost four times as many as Cibulkova (26 to 7), was also another key factor in this result.
As top ten players go, Radwanska is one of the few to have enjoyed a successful start to 2016; she won her first title of the year in Shenzhen and followed it up with semi-final showings in Melbourne and Doha. Radwanska wisely opted to skip Sydney and Dubai this year because of a leg injury, a proactive move that perhaps a few years ago, she wouldn’t have done. Her scheduling has been to focus for the bigger events and this has paid off so far in 2016.
Head-to-head record: Radwanska leads Cibulkova in the head-to-head, 6-3. While Radwanska has had her fair share of straightforward wins over Cibulkova, notably the 2013 Sydney final where she won, 6-0 6-0, Cibulkova has won three of their last five encounters. Cibulkova thrashed Radwanska in the Australian Open semi-finals in 2014 and also prevailed in a super three setter in Miami in the same year. Radwanska won their last encounter at the end of 2015 in Tokyo, 6-4 6-1.
Final thoughts: This situation is somewhat reminiscent of the Australian Open where Radwanska faced a difficult second rounder against Eugenie Bouchard. Cibulkova poses an even greater threat, particularly as she has beaten Radwanska on multiple occasions and has played a match in these funky court conditions. Radwanska’s most recent loss to Suárez Navarro was an eye-opener although it showed more her struggles to back up big wins where she exerted a lot of energy. There are signs that Cibulkova’s best form is not that far around the corner; however she is still blowing hot-and-cold between tournaments and has the tendency to wobble. Her serve will be key to giving her a platform to build off. Definitely a close one and going for a three setter, but fancy Radwanska to survive a tense battle.