SYDNEY, Australia - Angelique Kerber will have the opportunity to reach her second Sydney International final after defeating Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets in the last eight.
After trailing early on, the WTA World No.22 hit back by winning five of the next six games to scoop the first set 6-3, while she blew her opponent away 6-1 in the second.
Having fallen out of the Top 20 last year, Kerber had already posted impressive wins over Lucie Safarova and No.2 seed Venus Williams this week and continued her fine form with a blistering performance against the WTA World No.26.
Her backhand was especially explosive and, speaking after her victory, she admitted that she feels she has approached the new season in a strong fashion.
"I'm not looking back 2017 any more. I've had a great offseason and I'm working hard. I'm trying to do my best on court and win as many matches before going to Melbourne," she said.
"It's just the beginning of the year. I'm trying to play my game again, enjoy every minute on court. I'm trying to be aggressive and play like I did the year before last."
— WTA (@WTA) January 11, 2018
Prior to this meeting, the players were tied five victories each in the head-to-head, and Kerber made a timid start to the match, serving three double faults as she gave away a break following a promising start to her opening service game. But Cibulkova was unable to capitalize and threw in a scrappy game of her own to allow the German to hit immediately back.
After the 29-year-old saved two break points in the next game, she took full command of the set, with her stout defensive work sufficient to draw mistakes from her opponents.
While fortune smiled upon Kerber, most notably with two net cords towards the end of the set, Cibulkova remained wayward, with the final game encapsulating what had gone before it as the Slovak hit an overhead long, served a double fault and then produced an unforced error on set point to go down 6-3.
She came out with more purpose in the second set, saving two break points in her opening service game before fashioning two chances of her own when Kerber next had the balls in hand. But after those were impressively seen off, the 2016 Australian Open champion again took a grasp on the match.
Two return winners in the following game combined with two Cibulkova unforced errors to give Kerber the break and a 3-1 advantage, which was followed a difficult service hold as her opponent came roaring back at her as she started to find her range.
— WTA (@WTA) January 11, 2018
Kerber’s pressure, though, was relentless and in the second set she returned every one of her opponent’s first serves successfully. Her success was assured, however, when she broke Cibulkova again in a monumental sixth game that saw highlight-reel winners hit by both players as it was claimed after seven deuces.
She ran rapidly through the last game to win it for the loss of just one point, finishing with 30 winners to just 17 unforced errors to build on a strong start to the year that saw her come back from a set down to beat both Safarova and Williams earlier this week.
Camila Giorgi, who has yet to drop a set either in qualifying or the main draw, and beat Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-1, 6-2 on Thursday, now awaits her in the semifinal.