Qualifier Nicole Gibbs kicked off her 2016 Australian Open main draw campaign in impressive style on Monday afternoon, defeating Klara Koukalova 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 in an hour and 39 minutes. Gibbs will play 28th seed Kristina Mladenovic next, who defeated former Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets.
Gibbs Off to Flyer; Takes Opening Set with Relative Ease
Beginning the match on the offense, Gibbs' intentions were very clear. Against someone who hits as flat as Koukalova, she was keen to get the first strike in as many rallies as possible, keeping her Czech counterpart on the defensive as long as possible.
With this strategy, Gibbs got off to the perfect start, breaking straight away in the second game before consolidating the break at love, consequently opening up a 3-0 lead. Koukalova, however, is no stranger to slow starts, and began to find her rhythm, holding to get on the board before breaking to recover the early break. However, the American seemed to shift into a new gear in the games that followed suit, forcing errors out of her more experienced Czech counterpart and winning eight points in a row en route to going up another break of serve. From there, Gibbs continued to stamp her authority on the opening set, breaking once more to win the opening set 6-2.
Koukalova Fights Back, Forces A Decider
The second set was a significant contrast to the first, with Koukalova beginning to raise her level as Gibbs' level dropped slightly by the slimmest of margins. After exchanging holds, the Czech number eight broke in the third game, an advantage she would go on to consolidate with relative ease. The next few games were like a tug of war with both players refusing to give the other an inch, refusing to give in to their own struggles. After fighting through their respective holds, it was Koukalova who was able to make another breakthrough on the receiving end, breaking at the first time of asking to mount a 5-2 lead. Now with the double break advantage, Koukalova successfully closed out the second set 6-2 to restore parity in this first round match.
Gibbs Clinches Early Break, Runs Away with Final Set and Match
After winning the second set in such emphatic style, one might expect Koukalova to run away with the remainder of the match. However, Gibbs had other ideas. Showing great maturity, the 22-year-old regrouped and began to raise her level in the early stages of the second set, breaking early in the second game and consolidating the break a game later at love, much like in the opening set. From there, the pair exchanged breaks before Gibbs broke for a second time, benefiting from three double faults from a dejected-looking Koukalova. When given the chance to serve for the match, the American made no mistake, converting her first match point to seal a comprehensive 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 victory after the match.
"Today's match was really up and down," Gibbs told VAVEL USA. "I came out to a good start but was outplayed in the second set when Klara started hitting her targets a bit better. I was happy with the way I regrouped and changed my approach going into the third. Once I got a little momentum going and I could see the finish line, I didn't let up. I'm extremely excited to be through to the second round."