2015/03/28

Cibulkova Dominates Halep to reach Australian Open Semifinal

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(January 22, 2014) No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova routed No. 11 Simona Halep 6-3, 6-0 to move into the semifinals of the Australian Open on Wednesday. For the Slovak it’s her second major semifinal, the first coming at the 2009 French Open. Cibulkova is now 2-5 in Grand Slam quarterfinals

In a match which lasted 60 minutes, Cibulkova won the last 8 games to close the match. Halep only managed to win 10 points in the second set.

Cibulkova kept the ball deep in her rallies with the Romanian, who committed 25 unforced errors.

“I couldn’t play today,” Halep said.  “I had emotions, big emotions, and I couldn’t manage this.  Before the match I was very nervous and I didn’t feel the ball at all.  I couldn’t move my body and I couldn’t play.

“But she played really well today, and she hits all the balls very strong and she moves really well.”

 

Cibulkova came into the quarterfinals by upsetting No. 3 Maria Sharapova in three sets.

“Of course I’m really glad with the way I played, especially with the way I handled it mentally,” Cibulkova said. “It was a big win against Maria.

“But I wasn’t favorite in this match again against Halep, you know.

“I walked on the court with the confident that I can do it again today.  I was so focusing what I have to do, to do the right things.  That was all what I wanted to do, and of course enjoy my tennis again.

“I’m not so tall, but I’m intense on the court,” the 5’3” Cibulkova said, “and I’m powerful.”

“Obviously I’m not a tall player.  I would say I’m the smallest on tour.

“But, you know, I would say I’m pretty quick on my feet.  I do a lot of good footwork.  I’m really powerful on the court.  I have very good groundstrokes.  My forehand is pretty fast.

“Yeah, when I play my great tennis, I’m really aggressive.  I don’t know, that’s what I do the best.”

 

Dispite the poor performance by Halep, reaching the quarterfinals has been her best result at a major to date.

“I think I will have many chances to pass quarterfinals in Grand Slams,” Halep said.  “But I have to work hard like until now.  So I have my chances in this career and I want to get them.  I want to be more prepared before the big matches.

“So I have to work, hard work.”

“Yes, I am happy that I could play a quarterfinals here in Grand Slam,” she continued.  “Was my dream before this.  I don’t want to disturb my mind very much this sh– today, this match.

“But I just want to enjoy the day and to go home very happy.  I have to enjoy my best result in Grand Slam.”

Cibulkova will face the winner of the Victoria AzarenkaAgniezska Radwanska winner in the semifinals.

“Every match I play against of them, it was me who was doing pressure on them,” Cibulkova said of her potential opponents.  “I was the one who was dictating the game, the one who was going for bigger shots.

“So they both are great players.  I just want to keep my focus, you know, to stay aggressive.”

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Maria Sharapova Loses to Dominika Cibulkova at Australian Open

Dominika Cibulkova

Dominika Cibulkova

(January 20, 2014) In another major upset at the Australian Open within the last 24 hours, No. 3 Maria Sharapova fell in the fourth round to No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 on Monday.  With the win Cibulkova has now made the quarterfinals or better at all four majors.

Sharapova made 45 unforced errors in her two hour and 12 minute match against Cibulkova. In addition to the errors and her serving woes, Sharapova took an off-court medical time-out in the third set due to a hip injury.

“I have a bit of a strain the trainer told me in the hip area,” Sharapova said.

“I mean, those aches and pains are expected when you spend a long time on the court.  Just have to play through it.

“I haven’t been playing the best tennis of this tournament, but I found ways to get through to the last two matches.

“Tried to do that again today, but she played extremely well.”

Cibulkova also knocked out Sharapova from the French Open five years ago.

Cibulkova broke Sharapova’s serve four straight times, beginning when the Russian was serving for the first set. Cibulkova jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second set. Sharapova would win four straight games, but Cibulkova held her off to hold to finally close the set 6-4.

“It was really, really important game to stay in the match,’ said the world No. 20.  “It could be very different if it was 5‑All then set for me.

“So I think this game I was going for my shots, and I really played well.”

Sharapova was asked if this her second tournament coming back from a right shoulder injury which kept out for the last few months of the year, if she rates this as success.

“I think it’s a success in terms of that I’m back and that I’m healthy.  That’s quite important.  Otherwise I wouldn’t give myself a chance to play.

“So on that note, yeah, I have to look at the positives and see where I have come from in four or five months.  I haven’t played a lot of tennis in those six months.

“So I certainly would have loved to play a little bit more before playing a Grand Slam, but this is the chance that I was given.  I’m smart enough to be able to take it and acknowledge that I’m still pretty lucky to be in the draw and giving myself a chance to try to win it.”

With Serena Williams and Sharapova out, does the Slovakian think she has a chance at the title?

“I just ‑‑ I don’t want to think about it,” she said.  “I came here to play my best tennis.  The thing that changed maybe that I’m playing so well.  You know, I’m trying to also enjoy tennis.

“I love what I’m doing, and I don’t want to put too much pressure, because then it’s ‑‑ I don’t want to suffer on the court, you know.  I love the game and I love to play tennis.  I’m very good player, so I don’t want to have two opponents, the real one and me.

“I’m just trying to play against the opponent.”

“I was never doubting myself,” Cibulkova said on court after the match.

The 24-year-old Cibulkova will play Simona Halep in her first Australian Open quarterfinal.

No. 1 Serena Williams, 17-time major champion was knocked out in the fourth round on Sunday in a loss to Ana Ivanovic.

 

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Radwanska and Li Na Gain Toronto Semis

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By Brodie Elgin

(August 9, 2013) TORONTO – At 2-2 in the first set, Sara Errani winced. This wasn’t the first time she had played Agnieszka Radwanska. Last year the two battled to an eventual Radwanska victory in Istanbul at the Year End Championships, a match which lasted a staggering 3 hours and 29 minutes. She knew she was in for a strange match. As the sun beat down, the breaks came from all imaginable scenarios; great volleys at the net, bad errors, and winners after grueling points.”  I think we were playing a bit similar tennis.  That’s why a lot of running, a lot of long rallies, and that’s why I think our matches are always very long,” said Radwanska, prior to facing Errani.

 

With both players trading service holds to start the match, Radwanska and Errrani traded a nearly unbelievable 11 straight breaks before Radwanska finally held found herself up a commanding 7-6(1), 2-0 lead.

 

With neither player creating much pace, both players needed to find new ways to finish points or move players around. Errani was at her most effective when able to hit her forehand up the line or find extreme angles to spin the forehand cross court. However, Radwanska did an excellent job of trying to keep the ball to Errani’s backhand, particularly on her return, and getting to net to finish points when possible.

 

Unsurprisingly, the break lead didn’t last long and Errani and Rawanska battled to an even 5-5. With a couple of Errani errors, Radwanska broke yet again and finally put together a straight forward hold with four impressive winners, taking the match 7-6(1), 7-5 and advancing to the semifinals. She awaits Serena Williams.

 10062012 China Open Li Na in press 2

In the second semifinal of the day, Li Na had a straight forward win over Dominika Cibulkova, in 1 hour and 36 minutes. A streaky first set meant both players held and broke service three times each. But it was Li who would effectively raise her game in the tiebreak to win it 7-6(1).

 

 

Li insisted she wanted to continue to stick to her guns in the second set, and felt she was playing well. “I was thinking about, okay, one set.  Second set you should just continue to do what you should do.  You don’t have to be looking at what the opponent do.” From then on it was smooth sailing against Cibulkova, who recently won Stanford and is playing in her third straight week. Li saved both break points she faced in the second set and served at a cool 75% to take it easily, 6-2.

 

“I haven’t lost to her, but every time is tough.  I mean, never has [there been an] easy one,” said Li. “She was running pretty fast on the court, and she can hit everywhere on the court. So I have to ready for every second; otherwise I will lose the point.”

 

Li will take on Sorana Cirstea in the semifinals on Saturday. Li leads the head to head 5-1, including winning their two most recent matches, both on hard courts.

Brodie Elgin is the writer of mindtheracket.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @MindTheRacket. He is covering the Rogers Cup in Toronto for Tennis Panorama News, follow @TennisNewsTPN for updates.

 

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Cibulkova Beats Radwanska in Dramatic Fashion at Stanford

Cibulkova wins BOTWC

By Kevin Ware

(July 28, 2013) STANFORD, CA – The last time Dominika Cibulkova faced Agnieszka Radwanska on a tennis court, it ended in a 6-0, 6-0 drubbing in Sydney.  In today’s Bank of the West final, she erased that brutal memory with a dramatic 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 comeback victory for her third career title, and her first win over her Polish opponent.

But it wasn’t easy.

The first set went on serve until the fifth game, with Cibulkova broken at love in a game that ended emphatically with a jumping over-the-shoulder overhead by Radwanska. She had a chance to break back three games later but was unable to convert the one break point she managed to get against Radwanska’s impressive defense.

Having missed that lone opportunity for a break, she was broken again at love in the next game to hand Radwanska the set, along with a fair bit of momentum heading into the second set.

Cibulkova administered a measure of payback and broke Radwanska at love for 4-3 lead in the second set. That one break was all she needed to take the match into a decisive third.

After dropping the second set, Radwanska left court to regroup with a bathroom break. Cibulkova took this opportunity to call for a coach visit.  When asked afterward why she called him after winning the set, Cibulkova had this to say:

“(I called him) because I felt it’s the right time, you know, and he also wanted to tell me something. He told me to stick with my game, and he told me some extra things that I can do. And he calmed me down. He said everything was fine and I’m playing well. Just to keep it up and do a little small changes.”

The brief off-court break initially appeared to help Radwanska at the start of the third set. She began with a strong service hold, including two aces, and regained vital momentum as she raced to a 3-1 lead after another break of the Cibulkova serve.

Cibulkova, however, had other ideas and started working her way back into the match with fearless hitting. She plays with an aggressive “High risk, high reward” strategy, because she’s a big believer in putting fate into your own hands. After her semifinal match against Sorana Cirstea, she said: “I’d rather lose it myself than she hit the winner!”

At times it looked as if the risks were greater than rewards. But as the third set progressed and the breaks of serve from Radwanska’s side mounted (three total for the set), the payoff was evident.  A final break of serve for 5-4 gave Cibulkova a chance to serve for the match.

Closing a match is never easy, and this one was no exception. Nerves got the best of Cibulkova on her first three match points as she sent each of three nervous forehands beyond the baseline. The fourth match point featured a thrilling stab drop volley winner by Radwanska on a strong Cibulkova passing shot.

Cibulkova finally won on her fifth match point with a screaming backhand cross court winner that the exhausted Radwanska could only watch. She dropped to her back and savored the well-earned victory.

Radwanska had chances but wasn’t able to convert when it mattered. Her first serve percentage was lower than Cibulkova’s (52% vs. 56%), and was a major reason she faced 14 break points in the match.

Afterward, she talked about some of the issues she faced this week with the court conditions at Stanford, which she never really got used to, and how they affected her game. “I didn’t play my best tennis at all today. I think everything was a problem for me. I couldn’t feel the ball well – actually I couldn’t feel the ball the whole tournament.”

The dramatically different daytime conditions for the final were also problematic for Radwanska, who’d played all of her previous matches as the evening headliner.

“When I played at night it was much slower so I could try something else and mixing up and be in the match. Here it was different, the sun and the heat and everything.”

Apart from a precautionary wrapping of ice on her Achilles, Cibulkova was all smiles after the match.  She was jokingly asked about the Sydney final, and whether this was how she responds to a love-love loss.

“The difference between Sydney and today was that I made the first game. And after the first game I looked at my coach and was like, “Here we go. I’m here and it’s gonna be good today.”

It was a good day for Cibulkova, but it could also have been a good day for Radwanska. In a match with 205 total points, Cibulkova won 104 to Radwanska’s 101. Three points separated the two over the course of a 2:30 match. It doesn’t get much closer than that.

When asked if she was going to treat herself to anything special after such a big win, Cibulkova had to think long and hard for a reply. “I don’t know. I bought myself a new car (a Range Rover Sport) before the tournament, so I don’t know. I’ll save some money.”

Kevin Ware was covering the Bank of the West Classic as media for Tennis Panorama News.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak and site kevware.com/tennis/.

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Seeds Cibulkova and Hampton Overcome Inspired Opponents

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By Kevin Ware

Dominika Cibulkova [3] defeats Stephanie Voegele 7-5 7-6(5)

(July 25, 2013) STANFORD, CA – Worries about fitness and the lingering effects of an Achilles injury fell by the wayside for Dominika Cibulkova after she overcame Stephanie Voegele of Switzerland 7-5 7-6(5) in the first match of the day on stadium court.

She showed no signs of slowness or hesitation, but did sport a layer of physio tape on her lower leg. “The tape is for prevention. My Achilles will always be tough to deal with because I have this problem with the bone. That’s why my physio has to take good care of it so that I can keep playing.”

Though her leg was fine, the rust in her game was another matter. She struggled to close out the first set after leading 5-2, only doing so after breaking the Voegele serve in the eleventh game to take it at 7-5.

With the first set under her belt, Cibulkova looked poised to close out the second in more direct fashion. Voegele had other ideas, once again working her way back into the match after Cibulkova had lead 5-2.

Fittingly, the second set ended in a tiebreaker that Cibulkova won with fearless hitting from her forehand at 5-all, before serving it out on her first match point.

When asked afterward if she’d expected such a tough match from her Swiss opponent, Cibulkova was very complimentary of her Voegele’s abilities.

“I expected a really tough match because she’s playing really well at this time. I played her long time ago but remember how she’s playing close to the lines.”

“I just made it tough for myself. In the end I made it, but it could be easier for me.”

Hampton wins

Jamie Hampton [4] defeats Nicole Gibbs 7-5 6-7(5) 6-3

Fourth-seed Jamie Hampton had her hands full overcoming her own “rust”, as well as the inspired play of Nicole Gibbs; who was making her professional debut at this tournament after a stellar career at Stanford.

Rust on Hampton’s part was understandable, since this was Hampton’s first match of the tournament after receiving a first round bye as one of the top 4 seeds. “I’ve been here for a week now and I haven’t played. And I’ve never done anything like that before.”

The lack of sharpness in Hampton’s game was less of an issue, however, than the dogged determination shown by Gibbs.

Hampton might hit a harder ball than Gibbs, but Gibbs showed no sign of intimidation as she moved her opponent from side-to-side to keep the ball out of Hampton’s wheel house, and to expose any footwork weaknesses.

The first set was tightly-contested until a loose game by Gibbs at 5-all gave Hampton the crucial break, and allowed her to serve it out at 7-5.

The second set, won by Gibbs in a tiebreak, was an equally tight affair; made more so because of Hampton’s mounting unforced error total as she mixed winners and unforced errors interchangeably throughout.

After the match, Hampton was asked specifically about her serving difficulties on the day when she offered this assessment of her overall play: “To be honest, I just felt like I was struggling in general today.”

In spite of the efforts of her Stanford football team cheering section, Gibbs game began to unravel. The third set saw Hampton draw upon her experience as pro to serve bigger and hit bigger on shots that finally started to find their mark. There was little Gibbs could do than just say “too good”.

Gibbs managed a brief comeback (after falling behind 0-4) to get back on serve at 3-4. But she couldn’t sustain the momentum, and gave up one final break for 3-5. Hampton quickly closed out the match for the win.

Gibbs was remarkably upbeat after the match, and happy with the fight she showed on court. “The biggest takeaway is that I can play at this level, and that’s really exciting for me!”

Madison runs for a forehand

Other Match Notes

Daniela Hantuchova lost two straight tiebreakers to hand Urszula Radwanska a 7-6(3) 7-6(3) victory, and her second straight appearance in the Bank of the West quarterfinals. This loss is sure to stick with Hantuchova for because of the seven straight points she lost in the second set tiebreaker after leading 3-0.

Vera Dushevina beat American Madison Keys in the evening match on stadium court. Keys was unable to get any aspect of her ground game on track during the match, and was also done in by Dushevina’s strong service returns.

Keys is widely touted as one of the top prospects for future US slam success. And while it’s true that she has an immense amount of talent, she also still has a long way to go in terms of developing a more complete game to compliment her strong serve and ground strokes.

Kevin Ware is covering the Bank of the West Classic as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak and site kevware.com/tennis/.

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All photography by David Sweet.

BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC
Stanford, CA, USA
July 22-28, 2013
$795,707/Premier
Hard/Outdoors

Results – Thursday, July 25, 2013
Singles – Second Round
(3) Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) d. Stefanie Voegele (SUI) 75 76(5)
(4) Jamie Hampton (USA) d. (WC) Nicole Gibbs (USA) 75 67(5) 63
(7) Urszula Radwanska (POL) d. Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) 76(3) 76(3)
(Q) Vera Dushevina (RUS) d. Madison Keys (USA) 76(0) 62

Doubles – Quarterfinals
(1) Kops-Jones/Spears (USA/USA) d. Cako/Pluskota (USA/USA) 63 62
(2) Goerges/Jurak (GER/CRO) d. Grandin/Rosolska (RSA/POL) 06 62 105 (Match TB)
Order Of Play – Friday, July 26, 2013
Stadium (from 12.00hrs)
1. Sorana Cirstea vs. Olga Govortsova
2. Urszula Radwanska vs. Dominika Cibulkova
3. Jamie Hampton vs. Vera Dushevina (NB 15.30hrs)
4. Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Varvara Lepchenko (NB 20.00hrs)
5. Hantuchova/Raymond vs. Muhammed/Will

Court 6 (NB 16.30hrs)
1. Govortsova/Kudryavtseva vs. Chan/Dushevina (after suitable rest)

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Serena Williams Survives Scare from Dominika Cibulkova

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By Amy Fetherolf

(March 25, 2013) MIAMI — For a set and half, it looked like the Sony Open was about to lose another high profile player to an upset, as World No. 14 Dominika Cibulkova cruised to a 6-2, 4-1 lead over Serena Williams. But Williams managed to find her game in time, rallying to beat Cibulkova, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.

“Mentally I was just fried and I was just thinking about everything but tennis,” Williams said about her slow start. “Then I just had to pull myself back together. I was too stressed out and not really calm out there for really no reason.”

In the first set, Cibulkova took advantage of Williams’ shockingly lackluster serving, winning 44% of points on the Williams first serve, and 82% on the second serve. Williams hit just one ace in the set, and got broken three times.

Cibulkova kept it up into the second set, earning an early break on Williams. But suddenly, Williams loosened up and found her game, rattling off five straight games to take the second set 6-4. Once she’d forced the decider, it was mostly one-way traffic. Cibulkova broke Williams back early in the third set, but Williams broke two more times and held serve for the rest of the match.

“I was not feeling my game today, you know, but for me it’s getting through those matches when you don’t feel great and then you’re still able to come through them and survive and play for another round,” Williams said. “This particular time I just thought to myself, Well, I’ve been down worse. It’s nothing new. Just keep fighting. I never give up. Doesn’t matter whether it’s in life or on the tennis court, I keep fighting. That’s what I kept doing today.”

Williams hit 14 aces, 40 winners, 41 unforced errors in the match to Cibulkova’s two aces, 12 winners, and 19 unforced errors.

Williams will face Li Na in the quarterfinals.

Pictures from the match:

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Amy Fetherolf‏ is covering the Sony Open as media for Tennis Panorama News (@TennisNewsTPN). She is a co-founder of The Changeover. Follow her on Twitter at @AmyFetherolf.

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Sony Ericsson Open Players Party – Welcome to the Oscars


View the slideshow

by Craig Hickman

Tuesday night, the players chose their fashion-forward best for the “Oscars” of the player party circuit. Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Ana Kournikova were the biggest stars of the tennis world in attendance, as well as world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, Fernando Verdasco, and pretty boy Feliciano Lopez, who made one of the photographers weak-kneed.

Robin Soderling
, along with his girlfriend, were among the first to show up and they were already walking out when we arrived. Tomas Berdych and Lucie Safarova were the last to arrive on the red (blue) carpet. An adorable couple close up, their chemistry was palpable. Tomas has always had the look of an angel and Lucie’s baby-doll face was all aglow. I was thrilled to see Anastasia Myskina who arrived with the self-proclaimed “Russian Mob,” led by Svetlana Kuznetsova in another one of her head-scratching get ups.

Mixed in with the players were a few actors, a couple professional gamers, some well-known local DJ’s, and a few mystery men.

Venus Williams arrived about midway through and when Serena Williams wasn’t far behind, it was clear the superstar wasn’t coming. Also noticeably absent was Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Kim Clijsters.

Tweeting the photos was a stroke of genius suggested by photographer  JD Blom. I was all set to tweet my best descriptions of the outfits when he looked over my shoulder and said, “Just snap a photo.” Ah, technology. I’m not a wizard with the latest toys, so I had no clue you could do such a thing. Once I got the hang of it, it was all over. Would love to do that again someday.

Right before the paparazzi packed up equipment to leave, one of the Getty photographers asked my to identify most of the players he’d just captured for he only recognized a few big names. Who knew?

More photos from the live tweets – here.

On the Red (Blue) Carpet of the Sony Ericsson Open Players Party

Craig Hickman is founder and editor of Craig Hickman’s Tennis Blog He is covering the Sony Ericsson Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @CraigHickman.  Find his Sony Ericsson Open tweets on @GVTennisNews.

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On the Red (Blue) Carpet of the Sony Ericsson Open Players Party

The Sony Ericsson Open Players Party took place at the Paris Theater in Miami Beach. Here are a few photos from the event held on March 22, 2011.

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More photos from the live tweets – here.

Sony Ericsson Open Players Party – Welcome to the Oscars

Craig Hickman is founder and editor of Craig Hickman’s Tennis Blog He is covering the Sony Ericsson Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @CraigHickman.  Find his Sony Ericsson Open tweets on @GVTennisNews.

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New Experience with Sharapova and the Hot Shots

Craig Hickman will be covering the Sony Ericsson Open for Tennis Panorama News. Before the tournament got underway, the action was already beginning in South Beach.

By Craig Hickman

Started the day at breakfast with Jarkko Nieminen and Andrea Petkovic, had a short hit with David Ferrer at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, then toughed through the spring-break traffic to Miami Beach for the Xperia Hot Shots unveiling over at the Doubletree Surfcomber Hotel on Collins Ave.

Well, okay. I saw Nieminen and Petkovic at breakfast, watched Ferrer’s practice session with Fernando Verdasco before the event on Miami Beach. A bit overexcited attending my first Sony Ericsson Open, just seeing the players up close and personal made me feel as though we were all companions.


Maria Sharapova‘s celebrity appearance gave the event some sparkle after DJ Jazzy Jeff’s set and before Dominika Cibulkova, Sorana Cirstea, Alizé Cornet, Sabine Lisicki, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Heather Watson,were introduced as the WTA’s future superstars. The event felt like a big old party. Free flowing liquor at the open bar. Jazzy Jeff’s louder than loud music. Party goers from all walks of life decked out in various stages of undress, the beach only steps away. Paparazzi everywhere.

The turquoise ocean beneath a clear sky beckoned, but I stayed put. Well, not exactly.

Before the event got underway, I stole some moments in the hotel lobby with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal who were on the big flat screen next to the bar beating each other up in the BNP Paribas Open final. More folks than I would have imagined stopped to take in a few points en route to their rooms or the beach or the party out back or the bigger party along the entire thoroughfare out front. Miami Beach during spring break is no joke. Back in the lobby, one young woman waiting for the elevator pointed at the battle on the flat screen, looked at her toddler boy and said, “Look. Tennis.” Seems as though as many people stopped to check the tennis score as they did the basketball score before the nice bartender allowed me the remote to change the channel.

Shortly after the event, Sharapova was escorted by security to the black SUV that swept her away while the photographer’s shutters clicked, clicked, clicked.

Craig Hickman is founder and editor of Craig Hickman’s Tennis Blog. Follow him on twitter @CraigHickman.  Find his Sony Ericsson Open tweets on @GVTennisNews.

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