Monday, 26 January 2015

Domi edges Vika in thriller

Last year's finalist versus two time winner - poor Dominika, having to face dual winner Vika Azarenka in the fourth round.  Azarenka was always going to be the dangerous floater, unseeded due to a lengthy lay off through injury in 2014.  Her form in the Open has improved steadily, the win over Wozniacki most telling.

Cibulkova's pre Aus Open form was nothing special but she has lifted for the occasion with some impressive wins.

Today the match would be effectively an indoor clash, the roof on Rod Laver Arena closed because of rain.

Both girls settled well but after a long first game including several furious baseline exchanges, it was Vika who claimed a break of serve.  Both girls then held serve with high standard shot making and the contest appeared set to entertain. 2-1 Azarenka.

Dominika then went on a rampage breaking Azarenka twice and holding her own serve in the face of break points in the seventh game.  Her capacity to move Vika around the court at will and pass down either line was reaping big dividends and her 5-2 lead, though effectively only a net single break seemed formidable.

Attacking again, Cibulkova had Azaranka down three set points.  Vika saved two with tennis typical of that normally expected from a former number one, but the double fault was unfortunate and gave the set to Cibulkova 6-2 and also the right to serve first in set two.

The same start to the second set statistically with Vika breaking serve then holding for 2-0.  The difference was her confidence in handling the groundstrokes of Cibulkova.  Maybe the break could be maintained this time.

The further it went the better Azaranka looked - her serve was more reliable and stronger, better placed which wasn't allowing Cibulkova the ability to put as much bite on her returns. The third of Cibulkova's service games for the set saw Azarenka moving to the net and cutting off avenues to pass which helped secure a second break of serve and provide a 4-1 advantage to the Belarusian.

Dominika did the right thing at 1-5 by holding serve strongly to force Vika to serve for the set, and at 40-15 Vika appeared to have it done.  However never count the Slovak girl out - she played some wonderful shots to bring up break points, one of which she converted to pull it back to 3-5.

As it happened, the break worked well for Vika because if she had held, Dominika would have served first in the advantage decider.  Instead following the next game - a break of the Slovak serve - Azarenka had won the set 6-3 and would be serving first in the third and final set.  A cruel net cord at 30-30 did no favours for Dominika in that final game of the second set.

Azarenka began with the opening two games of set three and once again Cibulkova had to fight hard to break back.  She did through lots of running and great commitment and execution.  She then had a number of chances to break the Azarenka serve in the key fifth game which lasted it seemed a lifetime.  Dominika seemed to find the net every time she had the advantage and finally Azarenka decided to put a stop to the silliness and just win the game.

At 3-3 another game of changing fortunes, this time on Vika's serve, and finally at the last of the deuces Dominika surprised the crowd and certainly Vika by pulling a drop shot from the clouds to set up break point which she duly converted.  Cibulkova 4-3 and serving next.

A beautiful passing shot down the line plus another cross court to finish a splendid rally consolidated the break for Cibulkova and Azarenka had to hold serve to stay alive.

At 30-30 a wonderful return from Dominika put her in control of the point which she won to give her match point and once Vika put the final shot of the match into the net, Dominika had advanced to another quarter final at Melbourne Park.

6-2 3-6 6-3 in one of the highest quality matches so far this tournament.

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