World number five Dominika Cibulkova ended 2016 on a high note by winning the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals in Singapore, defeating world number one Angelique Kerber to claim that prize in her cabinet. The 2014 Australian Open finalist will be hoping to go one better in Melbourne in a few weeks time, which will cap off a remarkable comeback for Cibulkova considering she was ranked outside of the top 40 this time last year.
Alize Cornet has struggled with injuries over the past year, which hampered her performances in matches with a bad back, however, the Frenchwoman is formally ranked at 11 in the world but currently ranked at 41 and has an outside chance of gaining a seeding at the Australian Open due to Madison Keys, Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka not participating in Melbourne, and should she win the title in Brisbane this week it will guarantee her seeding.
How they got here
Cornet was embroiled in a three-set battle with seventh seed and Olympic gold medalist in the doubles, Elena Vesnina in the first round, and the former French number one recovered from a set down to defeat the Russian, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) in 2 hours and 37 minutes. In the second round, Cornet had an easier time by thrashing American Christina McHale 6-2, 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals in Brisbane.
Cibulkova, the second seed in Brisbane received a bye in the first round but was dealt with a tough assignment in the second round with last year's Australian Open quarterfinalist Zhang Shuai. Furthermore, the reigning WTA Finals champion dropped the first set but recovered in emphatic fashion to win a thriller, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in just under 2 hours and 20 minutes but it was a test that the Slovak needed, which will make her tough to beat this week in Brisbane.
Cibulkova and Cornet have played seven times with their meetings taking place on clay and hard courts. The world number five leads 5-2 in their head-to-head overall, leading 2-0 on clay and 3-2 on hard courts. The second seed won their first four matches in a row starting with a semifinal meeting at the defunct clay court event in Amelia Island with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory in 2008. Cibulkova followed this victory with another three-set win, in the Fed Cup playoffs tie between Slovakia and France in 2009 also on clay, and the world number five would win their next two meetings in straight sets in the third round of the Miami Open in 2014 and Australian Open in 2015.
The unseeded Frenchwoman finally registered her first victory over Cibulkova in the third round of the Rogers Cup in Toronto with a 6-3, 6-2 victory in 2015 but the Slovak was slowly coming back from Achilles surgery around this time. The duo split their two meetings at the back end of the 2016 season with both matches lasting three sets with Cibulkova winning the first match in Wuhan and Cornet was victorious in Beijing.
This will be an extremely close encounter between the two players as both players are fiery players on the court, and they will not hesitate to show their emotions during this contest. The second seed enjoys playing in this part of the world, and she is starting to become a popular figure amongst the crowd. Cibulkova's extremely fit and her blistering returns will punish Cornet's first serve which is one of the weak aspects of her game. Nonetheless, Cornet mixes up her serve by getting plenty of spin on the serve which makes it tricky for some of her opponents.
Cibulkova's aggressive from the baseline and she has plenty of energy to engage in long rallies, although her serve can be short and prone to serving double faults, the diminutive Slovak's firepower from her forehand bails her out of trouble. Cornet relishes the challenges of playing the big players as she's troubled Serena Williams in the past, defeating the American three times in 2014.
This is the first match scheduled at the Brisbane International in the Pat Rafter Arena at 11 am local time, and the winner of this quarterfinal encounter will face fifth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova or fourth seed and French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in the semifinals.
Prediction: Cibulkova in straight sets