A blockbuster opening-round match at the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open saw world number seven Caroline Garcia triumphing over former top-five player Dominika Cibulkova as the Frenchwoman put in a dominating display to prevail with a commanding 6-1, 7-5 scoreline after exactly 100 minutes of play.
Just a week after making the semifinals in Stuttgart, Garcia continues to ride on her momentum as she will now face the dangerous Petra Martic in the second round. The Croatian defeated two-time Major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets, but Garcia will still enter the encounter as the overwhelming favourite. Having hit 29 winners to just 23 errors today, the Frenchwoman looked in top form.
Garcia fights hard to take the first set 6-1
The scoreline of the first set is extremely deceiving — six of seven games were extended to 30-30 and Cibulkova had game points in three different games. It was a relatively tight start to the encounter and the games were kept close, though it was Garcia who showed nerves of steel during the pressurizing moments as she fended off multiple break points for a commanding 3-0 lead, an advantage which could have gone either way.
It could well easily be Cibulkova’s 3-0 lead had she taken her chances and be more aggressive against the Frenchwoman, but she placed herself in some deep trouble having fallen behind a double-break after sending a backhand just long. A stunning 5-0 lead soon ensued for Garcia, who struggled slightly on her serve but rebounded in time to silence her opponent.
The world number seven had double set points on the return, though Cibulkova came up with some inspired play and spared herself from more embarrassment by getting on the scoreboard with a desperate service hold in the marathon game. In what was the quickest game of the set, Garcia comfortably served out the set to love, taking it 6-1 after 34 minutes.
Cibulkova threatens to fight back but Garcia hangs onto the lead
Cibulkova had an encouraging start to the second set as she looked determined to produce a comeback. Garcia had a loss of focus momentarily, and her increased number of unforced errors gifted the Slovakian with her first break of the match, allowing her to take an early 2-0 lead having just triumphed in the lengthy 18-point game, the longest of the encounter.
Garcia bounced straight back, leveling the scores while saving yet another break point in the process. The quality of play was immense, giving the crowd their money’s worth. It was a series of comfortable service holds though the Frenchwoman was forced to escape from the brink several times, saving a crucial break point at 3-4 as she kept the scores level instead of giving Cibulkova a chance to serve out the set.
Some tight errors from Cibulkova proved to be costly as they came during the most crucial moments at 5-5, and Garcia grabbed the vital break as it came alongside the golden opportunity to serve out the win. Hitting her seventh ace of the day, Garcia sealed the impressive 6-1, 7-5 win after an hour and 40-minutes of thrilling action.