NEW HAVEN, CT, USA - No.2 seed Dominika Cibulkova surged into the Connecticut Open semifinals for the first time after edging past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets.
Meeting for the third time in 2017, Cibulkova narrowly escaped with the opening set before surging ahead 5-0 in the second. She had to tamp down a mammoth comeback effort from Pavlyuchenkova, closing out the 7-5, 6-4 victory after just over two hours.
“She made it extremely tough for me in the end,” Cibulkova acknowledged in her on-court interview. “I was playing very well in the whole second set, but then she started playing even better.
“I had four match points, and she hit an ace every time so I couldn’t do much about it. But I just kept fighting and I said to myself, ‘Okay, this one’s going to be yours.’”
In the battle of power players it was Pavlyuchenkova who got off to a strong start, breaking early for a 3-1 lead. But despite leading in the winners count, the Russian’s unforced errors cost her and allowed Cibulkova to break back.
The Slovak found her range in commanding fashion, painting the lines with huge groundstrokes to reel off the next five of six games. She edged through in a tough, 10-minute marathon game to get her nose ahead at 6-5 - dodging three break points to hang on - before play was suspended as a spectator received medical treatment, halting her momentum.
Coming back after the 30-minute break, Cibulkova turned around a 40-15 deficit to break once more and claim the opening set.
Growing in confidence, Cibulkova fired off winner after winner and kept Pavlyuchenkova’s serve under constant pressure, rewarded with back to back breaks to start off with a 4-0 lead in the second. The Russian looked more and more tired - and by 5-0 she had only won four points so far the whole set, only two of those on her serve - as she stepped up to serve to stay in the match.
With her back to the wall, Pavlyuchenkova found her best tennis of the match, swinging freely as she reeled off four games in a row and saved four match points - each time with an ace. But on Cibulkova’s fifth match point, Pavlyuchenkova double-faulted to send the Slovak through to the semifinals.
Cibulkova will take on Elise Mertens in the next round; the Belgian qualifier moved into the final four after receiving a walkover from Zhang Shuai.
“It feels great to be in semifinals,” Cibulkova said. “I had two great matches here against really tough opponents - these opponents you would meet in the quarterfinals of Grand Slams. So it’s good to play against them and I’m happy with my performance.”