WUHAN, China - Former BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global champion Dominika Cibulkova continued her mid-season resurgence at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open, dispatching World No.1 Simona Halep, 6-0, 7-5 to reach the third round and score a fourth career win over a top-ranked player.
"Today I was playing really well," the 2016 runner-up said. "It wasn't easy with her medical timeouts, tough mentally. I'm glad I made it through in the end."
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Halep discussed injuring her back in a pre-tournament practice session with former Wuhan winner Petra Kvitova, and though the reigning French Open champion got within a game of leveling the match, the 2014 Australian Open finalist proved too strong for the top seed late Tuesday night, advancing after one hour and 24 minutes on court.
"It was tough to play in the beginning because my back was blocked," Halep said after the match. "I knew it was, because we talked together with my team. Normally, I'd have to retire, but I didn't want to, and I don't like to do that. I just pushed myself to play better and better.
"I like to play. I came here, and I wanted to give everything until the last hope and chance. I was still close in the second set, so a match like this can give me confidence that my level is really good. I'm not disappointed, but I'm just sad this injury came from nowhere. I'm just going to go with the flow, and we'll see what's going to happen in a few days."
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Cibulkova breezed through the opening eight games as Halep struggled with her movement, calling the trainer on court after falling behind 0-5.
"I hit a forehand in the first game of a practice with Petra. We were playing a practice set, and I was immediately blocked, so I couldn't move. I stayed in bed all day, tried to do exercises and treatmentment, but I didn't have enough time to recover."
Receiving treatment for a left thigh issue in addition to her back, the Romanian got on the board and won four games in a row as her opponent's level dropped.
Undaunted, the Slovak leveled the set and broke to 15 as Halep served to force a decider, winning the last three games to book a Round of 16 clash with No.13 seed Daria Kasatkina.
"It's going to be a tough one," Cibulkova said of the young Russian. "She's playing well and is a smart player. I'm really looking forward to this one."
In all, Cubulkova struck an even 20 winners to 20 unforced errors, and while Halep showed noticeable improvement from the 1/8 winner/unforced error differential she posted in the opening set, she ultimately ended the match with 12 winners to 18 unforced errors.
"I love this tournament. I love the courts, the balls. The surface suits my game, and I love to play on the Center Court. I hope I'll have many more matches coming my way."