The opening match at the 2018 Qatar Total Open was a thriller and it was a blockbuster match-up which featured two top players. Dominika Cibulkova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who both experienced disappointing starts to the new year, were looking for the important victory here in Doha but it was the Slovakian who extended her lead over the Russian in their head-to-head record after grabbing the impressive 7-6, 6-4 win in nearly two-hours of play.
Recovering from an early deficit, Cibulkova displayed some top-notch tennis and put up a convincing performance to oust the higher-ranked Pavlyuchenkova, who was relatively inconsistent today. With this impressive win, Cibulkova will now face seventh seed Caroline Garcia for a place in the third round.
Cibulkova steals entertaining first set
Cibulkova had a disastrous start to the match as Pavlyuchenkova capitalized on a slow start from the Slovakian to grab the break in the opening game with some fantastic returns. The Russian was unable to hold onto her lead, though, as her serving inconsistency proved pivotal. The early stages of the encounter saw Cibulkova seemingly being the better player on the court, an often earned chances while Pavlyuchenkova struggled to find her feet despite coming up with several spectacular shots.
Impressively, the world number 22 finally got going with outstanding break point saves in the sixth game. It soon became a high-quality contest as both Cibulkova and Pavlyuchenkova were firing on all cylinders, and the set was eventually brought into a tiebreak to decide the winner. Cibulkova unexpectedly powered to a commanding 4-0 lead with the help of several lackluster errors from her opponent, but she was pegged back as Pavlyuchenkova leveled the scores at 7-7 having saved three set points before coming up with one of her own. An untimely groundstroke error proved costly as Cibulkova found her way back to finally clinch the marathon opening-set after 65 minutes.
The Slovakian closes out the win
Cibulkova’s consistent groundstrokes and the accuracy of them were just too good for Pavlyuchenkova, whose confidence took an obvious dip after the loss of the first set. Dictating play comfortably, the former WTA Finals champion was more efficient at the crucial moments while the Russian was getting wasteful on her chances.
Within a blink of an eye, Cibulkova was edging closer than ever to the finishing line as she opened up a formidable double-break lead with Pavlyuchenkova losing all the rhythm. Nonetheless, a changeover was enough for her to regain the confidence and multiple return winners allowed her to grab back one of the breaks to lessen the deficit.
However, it seemed to be a little too late as Cibulkova held onto her remaining lead, charging her way towards the confidence-boosting victory after an hour and 56-minutes of play. Just three points separated both players on the statistics board, while the quality of the match was reflected when both Cibulkova and Pavlyuchenkova ended the encounter with positive winner-unforced error ratios.