Caroline Wozniacki gave it her best on court but couldn’t bring down her European rival at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy Thursday night. The number 18 ranked player lost out in straight sets to Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 7-5 at Sibur Arena moving her into the quarterfinals.
The rivalry between the two tennis stars rekindled for the first time in four years still having the edge over the Slovakian. Since 2012, the Dane won the last three with a big reason to keep winning. Wozniacki had been a surprisingly slump since the season began losing early at the Australian Open before falling short at Aukland. While that was more than two weeks ago, she would like nothing more than to get back on track with her dominating form as she sits outside the top 10.
Cibulkova remains the dark horse of the sport capable of pulling off upsets and getting deep into tournaments. She got to the semis at Hobart before bowing out against Eugenie Bouchard. She remained warmed up after her victory in the Fed Cup defeating Australian Kimberly Birrell in straight sets. Though she’s only won three times against Wozniacki, a chance for a third would depend on the health of the former number one.
Things looked well for the Dane as she and Cibulkova split the first four games holding serve through all of them. The Slovakian changed the pace in the fifth taking the lead on the break before winning it on a wide shot from Wozniacki. She opened the lead to a pair of games but watched Wozniacki follow suit on winning a game on the break.
The set was then in reach for Cibulkova at 5-3 playing the ninth game against the serve of the Dane. Wozniacki held firm in the game to extend her life in the set and try to break the Slovakian. Cibulkova stepped up in the pivotal game and fought to reach deuce with the Dane. It took her three breaks and a lot of effort but she came out with the victory to win the set 6-4. It took 48 minutes for Cibulkova who had a low first serve percentage but made up for it on the second serve and her 16 winners.
Frustration was growing in the Danish tennis star, as her ability to answer on some of the shots had been tough. She failed getting a second straight win as the Slovakian had plenty of energy to lay out the ball where she pleased. Wozniacki got on the board in the third game and kept her rally of wins alive through four. With things tied at two all, it gave the Dane an opportunity to get back in while on the serve. She up three straight taking the lead from Cibulkova but staying there was another battle.
She lost it to Cibulkova who rallied into a tie, but soon found herself playing a much stronger competitor. A win in the seventh put her back out front serving at 4-3 where she immediately went up 5-3 with the match within her grasp. Wozniacki served while on the edge of defeat and made her thoughts known as a hawk eye challenge called the last ball in while the call from umpire was out. She couldn’t get it overturned or replayed having to continue on at 15-15. She let it topple her game as Cibulkova played for match point but made too many unforced errors sending the game to deuce. Cibulkova saved Wozniacki to try and pull off a tie in the tenth and save the set and the match.
The Slovakian was back on serve to get it done bring Wozniacki’s luck to a halt. The Dane fought hard for every point while trying to pressure Cibulkova into dropping the game. The mistakes were costing her dearly as Wozniacki earned her first break point of the match sending it to the first to seven. Cibulkova was the first to step out front as she battled through a tight contention with Wozniacki winning it on two breaks. The winner came off the top of the net somehow finding a place to land inside and take the victory.
Her third chance to close out the match came on serve but the forced errors came to play once again. She gave Wozniacki two points on a long shot and one into the net that had her struggling. A double fault put her in trouble but she recovered on a winner in the corner. Deuce was in play for the two where five long breaks went into the books before Cibulkova could enjoy a much needed win on the day that took nearly two hours to finish.
“It was a really great match,” Cibulkova said during her on court interview. “It’s always tough to play Caroline and today I was just playing well even though I made some mistakes. I was really confident and knew this was the only way I could beat her so I’m happy that I stayed tough mentally.” She’ll need plenty of it, as she’ll face Russian hopeful Daria Kasatkina Friday.