DUBAI, UAE - No.4 seed Karolina Pliskova weathered a mid-match letdown to claim her first win at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in a three-set thriller, fighting past Dominika Cibulkova to reach the round of 16.
Coming into her Dubai opener, Pliskova had to bounce back quickly from a viral illness that kept her sidelined from Doha last week. She was looking to continuing the momentum that saw her leave Australia last month with a 10-1 win-loss record - including a 12th career title at Brisbane.
But it was no easy feat against familiar foe Cibulkova, who held a 3-1 lead in her record against Pliskova - including three wins in a row between 2014 and 2016 - with the Czech claiming the win in Doha in 2017, the pair’s most recent meeting.
Under pressure, former World No.1 Pliskova was able to find her best tennis when it counted, needing almost two hours to survive Cibulkova and win 6-2, 3-6 6-3. She rained down 13 aces and won 83% of points behind her big first serve en route to victory.
The first set featured some nearly-perfect tennis from Pliskova, who had Cibulkova under pressure from the start. Pliskova created two break chances during her opponent’s first two service games before finally breaking through at 3-2, and then she roared through the next three games to make it five in a row - firing off two aces in the final game to serve out the set with confidence.
But in the second set, it was Cibulkova that raised her level. The Slovak responded strongly, stepping into the court with aggression and turning the tables on the big-serving Czech. Cibulkova earned the lone break in the second game to build up a 3-0 lead, and then defended her advantage for the rest of the set to force a decider.
After the second set, the pair had to wait off court as they weathered a 30-minute delay, the rain that had been threatening Dubai all day finally coming down late in the evening. Upon resumption, both players came out deadlocked and dialed in, with the first five games going comfortably to the server.
Finally it was Cibulkova who blinked first, a spate errors coming off of her racquet giving Pliskova the chance to surge ahead and break at 4-2. That late boost would prove to be decisive, and Pliskova went on to serve out the match - and a spot in the next round.
Through to the third round, Pliskova’s next opponent will be Alison Riske, who defeated Alize Cornet 6-2, 6-3 earlier in the day to advance. Riske comes into the matchup on a tear, after completing a stunning upset over No.13 seed Julia Goerges in two sets in the first round.
More to follow...