Arn Edges Cibulkova, Bartoli Downs Dokic
Published January 19, 2012 12:00
MELBOURNE, Australia - On a day where the stars of the WTA were battling it out on the biggest courts at the Australian Open, the closest match of the tournament was taking place on Court 6, and it produced an upset - Greta Arn survived No.17 seed Dominika Cibulkova to set up a date with a legend.
The 32-year-old Arn, who set a career-high No.40 last May but is currently down at No.92 in the world, used all of her veteran guile - as well as some huge serving and powerful groundstrokes - to outlast Cibulkova, 62 36 108, rallying from 3-1 down in the final set and even making it through a tense 7-6 game, where the Slovak - a former Top 15 player - served for the match.
Arn's reward for her gutsy win? A third round clash with Serena Williams.
"Today was a really good match at a high level and I hope I can keep it up against Serena," Arn told ESPN's Pam Shriver on court right after the match. "For me, Serena is the best player in the world, the real No.1 for me. And to play against her is an absolute privilege for me. But I'm not thinking about that right now. I'll talk to my coach and we'll see what advice he gives me."
Arn is through to the third round of a Grand Slam for the second time, going this far at Wimbledon in 2010. She will be playing Serena Williams for the first time, but has played Venus Williams before, pushing her to three sets on the clay courts of Acapulco in 2009 but eventually falling, 63 67(3) 64.
In other late matches, No.18 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova edged American Sloane Stephens, 76(6) 75; No.27 seed Maria Kirilenko came back from a second set blowout to get by Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak, 64 16 62; and, on Rod Laver Arena, No.9 seed Marion Bartoli served strong and kept the pressure on to outdo Australian star Jelena Dokic, 63 62.
Dokic had lost to Bartoli more handily in Sydney the week before, 60 63.
"It was better than Sydney, but it's still tough," Dokic said. "I'm still a work in progress. It's not easy to come out at a Grand Slam and play a Top 10 player and perform the way you want to perform. But I'm happy with the improvements I'm making. I need to keep working and play as many matches as I can."
Dokic, who emigrated from Serbia to Australia in the early 1990s and has enjoyed some strong home crowd support in Australia over the years, was asked whether tennis helped her feel at home in her adoptive nation.
"Yes, but I don't feel Australian because I play tennis here - it's because I grew up here and lived here. I don't think tennis alone has anything to do with it. I'm proud to be Australian. Because I'm in the sport and it's so high profile, it gets attention, but I love Australia. And I love to play for Australia."
Kvitova had by far the toughest match of them all, rallying from 2-0 down in the third set to bet Carla Suárez Navarro, 62 26 64. "It was very important to have a match like that. It's good I got through and won," the World No.2 said. "Carla played very well in the second set. It was tough for me to get back in the third.
"She was a very, very good opponent. She beat Venus here."