The series of grass court warm-up events leading up to the Wimbledon Championships concluded last week. The closing act saw Slovak Dominika Cibulkova capture the equal-biggest title of her career and her first on grass at the Premier-level Aegon International Eastbourne on the southeastern British coast. The title run sends Cibulkova back into the top 20 rankings for the first time since March 2015.
Last week’s titlist
Slovak number one Dominika Cibulkova endured one of the toughest stretches of her career when she had to sit out the middle of last year to go through an Achilles surgery. As a result, her ranking plummet from 10th at the start of 2015 to as low as 59th before finishing the year as number 38. It was Cibulkova’s first non-top 30 finish since 2010.
This year however, the Slovak looked to have finally regained her stride. Prior to Eastbourne, she had already appeared in three finals, coming out on top in Katowice two months ago. Her runner-up finishes came in Acapulco and Madrid.
Cibulkova was seeded 12th in Eastbourne and like her fellow seeds, received a first round bye. In her opening match, she defeated dangerous tennager Jelena Ostapenko before dispatching qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko to make the last eight. There, the Slovak faced top seed Agnieszka Radwanska and overcame a rain delay to notch her second consecutive win over the Pole.
She booked her place in her maiden grass court final after beating surprise package Monica Puig in straight sets. Going up against powerful Czech and 10th seed Karolina Pliskova for the title, the Slovak defied all the odds, racing to 6-3, 7-5 win over Pliskova to lift her sixth career title. With this, she adds a fourth Premier title to her trophy case, having won Moscow in 2011, Carlsbad in 2012 and Stanford in 2013.
When the sixteen seeds stepped out on court for their opening matches, only five remained at the end of the day. Among the notable seeded casualties in the second round were second seed Roberta Vinci, third seed and defending champion Belinda Bencic and fourth seed Timea Bacsinszky.
In the only all-seeded round of 16 clash, 11th seed and British number one Johanna Konta scored her first win over fifth seed and 2011 runner-up Petra Kvitova. Konta did well by going all the way to the last four where she succumbed to Pliskova in straight sets. Other names who went deep in the draw last week were 2013 champion Elena Vesnina and France’s Kristina Mladenovic, both making the last eight.
This week's rankings will determine the seedings for Wimbledon. Cibulkova moves into the top 20 with the Eastbourne title from her previous ranking of 21st, she now sits at 18th. Mladenovic, courtesy of her quarterfinal result, goes up two places to 31st whereas fellow quarterfinalist Ekaterina Makarova rises from 29th to 35th.
A player who makes her top 40 debut is Puig, surpassing her previous career-high of 41st and is now placed at number 36. Moving down, Vesnina concludes the top 50, moving up from number 53. Madison Brengle, who came through qualifying and eventually made the round of 16 rises from 62nd to 58th.
Bencic, as a result of not defending her title, drops out of the top 10 after dropping her opening match against Vesnina. Sloane Stephens, who made the semifinals in Eastbourne year, exits the top 20 after choosing to skip the tournament this year. Despite winning back-to-back matches for the first time since February, Caroline Wozniacki falls out of the top 40 from number 37 to number 45 after failing to match her semifinal result from last year.
Aussie Daria Gavrilova, last year’s quarterfinalist, dips five spots to 56th after falling to Pliskova in the second round. Another 2015 quarterfinalist Tsvetana Pironkova goes down from 59th to 71st after electing to sit out the tournament.
Road to Singapore
By virtue of the Eastbourne title run, Cibulkova cracks the top 10 standings in the race to the WTA Finals at number seven, improving five spots from 12th. Konta moves up from 15th to 13th whereas Pliskova closes out the top 15 standings. Puig solidifies her position in the top 20, going up from 20th to 17th. Vesnina rises from number 27 to number 23 whereas compatriot Makarova vaults from 33rd into the top 30 at 28th.
Andrea Petkovic who reached the last 16 in Eastbourne enters the top 40 at 37th from her previous placement of 41st. Mladenovic continues her rise in the race this grass court season, rising from number 52 to number 43. Other players who move up in the race are Brengle (56th to 48th), Bondarenko (64th to 53rd) and Wozniacki (93rd to 86th).
This week’s action
The Wimbledon Championships commences this week and will see tennis stars battle out over the coming fortnight to be the last one standing and lift the Venus Rosewater Dish. Serena Williams will make her 2016 grass court debut as the top seed and defending champion, also the heavy favourite to win her seventh Wimbledon title. The draw will also feature six Brits in the draw, led by British number one Konta.