— W&S Open (@CincyTennis) August 19, 2016
Prior to this season, Dominika Cibulkova--a player known for her hard court success--had entered the Western & Southern Open six times, and five of those times, had she failed to get past the first round. The exception was 2012, when she defeated her first round opponent but had to retire during the second round.
Upon arriving here earlier in the week, the Slovakian star said she felt rested and was ready to put her poor Cincinnati history behind her. But that was not to be; tonight, Cibulkova lost a rain-interrupted match to the increasingly dangerous Timea Babos. Babos defeated Cibulkova 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Cibulkova had taken a week off in order to rest after sustaining a heel injury. She said that we didn't feel psychologically affected by her poor record in Cincinnati; rather she has problems at the Western & Southern Open because of the tournament's use of Penn balls. She always has to change her racket tension when she's in Cincinnati, she added. It probably didn't help her case that the courts were completely soaked after the second set, and that heavy conditions set in.
Sometimes, you know that a match is going to be superior in quality, and that was the case today when Angelique Kerber played Barbora Strycova. The match was everything I thought it would be, and was a lot of fun to watch. Strycova had to play a lot of catch-up, and the two women broke each other seven times in the course of the two-set match. Strycova's service level dropped a bit from her previous Cincinnati matches, but it was still respectable.
It took Kerber two hours to create a 7-6, 6-4 victory over a very tricky opponent. The German's signature passing shots were put into good use at the end of each set, while Strycova showed off some superb serve-and-volley technique. It was quite a workout for the 2nd seed, who will next face off against Carla Suarez Navarro, who, along with Babos, is into the quarterfinals in both singles and doubles. The Spaniard beat 6th seed Roberta Vinci today.
3rd seed Simona Halep had an easy time of it today, as her opponent, Daria Gavrilova, had all kinds of trouble serving, and could hardly keep the ball in the court. Gavrilova won only three games.
Karolina Pliskova defeted Misaki Doi, and Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Timea Bacsinszky. As I write this, Garbine Muguruza is a game away (5-0 in the second) from defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Of note in doubles competition: Top seeds Caroline Garcia and Kiki Mladenovic were upset today in the second round of play by Vania King and Monica Niculescu. The French pair had a bye in the first round. Their fortunes have gone down considerably since they made their red-hot clay season run.