EASTBOURNE, Great Britain - In a marquee opener between former champions at the Nature Valley Invitational on Monday, it was 2016 champion Dominika Cibulkova who ousted 2010 winner Ekaterina Makarova to move on to the second round, 7-5, 6-4.
The Slovak's victory is her first in exactly a month, having been on a three-match skid since reaching the final of the Internationaux de Strasbourg in May.
In the first-ever meeting between the pair of former Top 10 players on grass, the Slovak scored just the second straight sets victory in seven matches between the two.
Having lost to the Russian three times last season, Cibulkova scored her first win in the matchup in four years.
— WTA (@WTA) June 25, 2018
After the first seven games of the match went with serve, Cibulkova won the last four games of the opener from a 5-3 deficit. She broke Makarova to love as she served for the set, and saving two game points that would've sent it to a tiebreak in the final game.
"I was just thinking about the next point, and I wasn't dealing with the score," Cibulkova said of the comeback. "I just tried to keep playing better and to serve better and I was focused in the right moment."
The second set was a carbon copy of the first, but in the Slovak's favor, as she was the first to break through for a 5-3 lead after the first seven went with serve.
Though it was Makarova's turn to break Cibulkova as she served for a win, the World No.32 responded to the brief fightback with a sealing break of serve, as she took advantage of an untimely double fault which gave her two match points.
— WTA (@WTA) June 25, 2018
"Every match that we played was really, really different, and we are both reall solid players - playing well, moving well," Cibulkova said. "Today, I was just aggressive...and I love playing on the grass, as does she, so I felt really good."
Despite her typical aggressive style of play, it was Cibulkova's consistency that was rewarded in the victory - as she went 4-for-5 on break points, and struck 20 winners to 17 unforced errors to Makarova's 26 winners and 35 unforced.
Cibulkova's victory sets up a second round clash against another woman who has had success on the lawns of Eastbourne in two-time finalist and No.4 seed Angelique Kerber.
In other first round action around the grounds, Aryna Sabalenka bounced back after losing a tight opening set to defeat lucky loser Sachia Vickery, 4-6, 6-0, 6-1; Birmingham semifinalist Mihaela Buzarnescu continued her winning ways against Peng Shuai, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1; and Kaia Kanepi and Hsieh Su-wei scored a pair of wins over two qualifiers in Kurumi Nara and Natalia Vikhlyantseva, respectively.