Dominika Cibulkova and Daria Gavrilova finished their first round matches within the space of thirty seconds to set up a compelling second round encounter set for Thursday at Wimbledon.
Cibulkova arrived at Wimbledon with a huge wedge of confidence following her first title on grass in Eastbourne. She faced a tricky first round opponent in Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. While Cibulkova had won all four of their previous matches, Lucic-Baroni is a player that can be almost unplayable when she is in her groove. The Croatian player began in irresistible form, smashing away two forehand winners to get the early break. Lucic-Baroni was a whisker away from a double break 4-1 first set lead but went *just* long with another forehand.
This initiated a change in momentum as Cibulkova went onto hold and then break with Lucic-Baroni offering up some errors. The pair were forced to sit and wait for 15 minutes as a spectator was taken ill in the stands. On the resumption, the first set went with serve as Lucic-Baroni secured a decent hold to 4-4, saving three break points in a game where she double faulted three times. Cibulkova was looking more comfortable on serve, while Lucic-Baroni was much more vulnerable, missing first serves and throwing in double faults. Cibulkova eventually wrapped up the first set, 7-5.
Cibulkova began to motor in the second set, playing some aggressive grass-court tennis to go into a *4-0 lead. It looked like the end was nigh but Lucic-Baroni can suddenly turn it on and she did just that, managing to rein in the errors to reel off three straight games. The former Wimbledon semi-finalist couldn’t get back to level terms though as Cibulkova tightened her grip on the match to serve it out in straight sets, 7-5 6-3.
Gavrilova came from a set and a break down to defeat Qiang Wang, 2-6 6-3 6-4, in the first round. Gavrilova was erratic in the first set, going on a mental walkabout after she failed to break Wang (who had led by an early break) from 0-40 on the Chinese players’s serve. The Aussie quickly went down a break in the second set but won three games on the trot to take the lead… however she couldn’t consolidate it.
The turning point in the second set (and probably match) happened with Gavrilova serving at 3-3; the Aussie saved two break points and then came out on top of two BRUTAL points with both players breathing heavily. This seemed to give Gavrilova both a physical and mental edge, and she began to wear down Wang and dictate more of the rallies. Gavrilova won the second set and quickly went up a double break in the third set, dropping just three points in the process. The Aussie lost one of her breaks but always remained in front and closed out the match in confident fashion with some solid serving
Head-to-head record: This will be a first career match-up on the WTA tour between Cibulkova and Gavrilova.
Interesting stat: Gavrilova has won back-to-back matches on just five occasions this year. Cibulkova meanwhile is at a healthy 31-11 W-L record for the year and is having great success on grass having failed to win a match on this surface between Rosmalen in 2012 and Eastbourne last year.
Final thoughts: Cibulkova and Gavrilova are two of the gutsiest competitors out there, maximising their games with bundles of intensity. Cibulkova is the form player and has more weapons. Gavrilova can mix up the play nicely but from recent viewing she’s still too erratic, in my opinion, to make her next upward movement in the rankings. Cibulkova was remarkably solid in her first match against Lucic-Baroni as she can commit errors, particularly lifting up on the forehand side. I’d hope that Gavrilova can get stuck in because this could be a super entertaining match. However, i’m going with the form book on this one and Cibulkova to win in straight sets.