RABAT, Morocco - Polona Hercog came back from a set down to stun No.2 seed Dominika Cibulkova and reach the second round at the Grand Prix Son Altesse Royale La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Rabat.
Fresh from a run to the final in Istanbul on Sunday, Hercog needed a set to shake off the fatigue and continue her winning ways against Cibulkova, triumphing 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 after a nearly three-hour battle.
Read more: Invincible Hercog moves into Istanbul final
“Dominika is a very experienced player and she plays with high intensity, but I managed to put her out of her rhythm a little bit,” Hercog explained in her on-court interview.
“I was struggling a little bit in the beginning because I only arrived yesterday from Istanbul so the conditions were very different.
“I just kept fighting and I knew if I could keep playing I would find my rhythm. And that’s what happened in the end.”
Cibulkova, who was competing in her first tournament since Indian Wells after having to withdraw from the Miami Open due to illness, came away with the edge after three straight breaks in the opening set, getting ahead 3-1. She reeled off the last two games without dropping a point to storm through the one-sided set.
But Hercog kept the pressure on the Slovakian player, bringing up three break points across two service games before finally breaking through on her fourth opportunity to take her first lead of the match at 5-4. Cibulkova broke back to keep things close, but Hercog stormed ahead once more to level the match at one set apiece.
Just one break of serve decided the final set, with Hercog pulling away early at 2-1 and withstanding a barrage of break-back points to hang onto her lead. Cibulkova saved three match points at 5-4 to extend her stay in the tournament, but Hercog got the job done in the next game, serving out the victory after two hours and 47 minutes on court.
Through to the second round, Hercog will play the winner between Paula Badosa Gibert and Fiona Ferro, both qualifiers.
“I came here to Rabat just trying to take everything match by match,” Hercog said. “Of course, it’s everyone’s wish to win the tournament so you have to go step by step.
“I want to do my best tennis in every match and every point, so this is my main goal at the moment.”