Saturday, 21 January 2017

Makarova into 4th round

The first Saturday of Aus Open 2017 had arrived and to commemorate the occasion on Rod Laver Arena, sixth seed Slovak Dominika Cibulkova agreed to play some third round tennis against thirtieth seed Russian Ekaterina Makarova. 
The two had met three times previously and Cibulkova won each of those, but not really relevant since they were in 2012-2014.

More relevant is current form, which is better in Melbourne for Makarova than Brisbane or Sydney, where she lost each time in the first round.
Here she won the battle of the Ekaterinas, beating Alexandrova in in the first round, followed by victory over Sara Errani, who retired in their second round match.

Cibulkova won her two matches over Denisa Allertova and Su-Wei Hsieh, the latter in an intriguing contest.

Cibulkova served first and began with a forehand winner.  At once her ground strokes were crisp and assured, forcing Makarova to produce precise shots in return.  She was able to only to a certain extent.  A perfect drop shot won the game for the sixth seed who led 1-0.

Strong serving from the Russian produced errant replies from Cibulkova and Makarova had two game points.  One was saved, but a down the line winner secured the leveller and it was 1-1.

Cibulkova began missing a number of first and Makarova started winning her share of baseline exchanges, resulting in break points in the third game.  One was saved but a second one reared its ugly head.  A poor shot missing wide confirmed the break and Makarova had the edge 2-1.

A series of errors brought us to 30-30 before two clean winners, one down each line won the consolidating game for Makarova. 3-1.
In the fifth game Cibulkova served better and generally controlled the points, but two brilliant returns of serve from Makarova made it deuce, and the momentum overpowered Dominika who lost the last two points through further excellence from a Russian brimming with confidence and leading 4-1.

Dominika fought back hard, a return forehand winner beginning that journey, and the break back reducing the deficit to 2-4.
However the journey back to safety ran into difficulties, in the form of three break points, a double fault amongst them.  All of those were saved with a variety of brave and resourceful tennis shots, but Makarova had one winner of her own up her sleeve which she released down the line to set up a fourth chance to break, and this one worked for her, Cibulkova hitting out of court and falling back 2-5.

Makarova had no issues serving out the first set 6-2 and the sixth seed would need to borrow heavily from all her reserves to turn this around.

Cibulkova left the court for something and when she returned it was clear the something hadn't helped.  She lost serve to love and Makarova didn't have to do much for that to occur.  Serving now at 6-2 1-0.

A lucky net cord at 30-30 for Ekaterina, summed up how the day was going for Dominika who trailed 0-2.

Without any confidence and appearing to have lost all feel for her shot making, Dominika dropped yet another service game.  She could not handle the rallies in which Makarova would involve her, arriving late at most balls, and racquet unprepared if there on time.

3-0 and cruising to victory, Ekaterina double faulted, one of the few ways Cibulkova could win a point, and then pushed one long to give the sixth seed a break point.  Fine serving erased that one.  The serve was held and 4-0 the score.

A revival of sorts saw Cibulkova hold serve then break the Barthel serve.

A long battle in the seventh game saw Cibulkova once more hang on and close within a single break of serve.  
The comeback was in full flight with Dominika placing more and more pressure on the Makarova ground strokes, while improving her own.  She broke for a second time, after a searching game, to level at 4-4.

The Makarova error count was rising as the pendulum in the match swung - Cibulkova held easily and led 5-4.
Makarova survived a fascinating service game which lasted several deuces and included three break points. 5-5.

Makarova was under pressure to stay alive in the set again at 5-6 after Cibulkova held serve easily.  A love game pushed the set into a tie break.

Cibulkova dropped the first two points but blasted her way to 4-2, carrying the mini break through to 6-3 and three set points.  Only one was required and the match was a set apiece.

The decider began with Makarova on top again, holding serve with ease, then troubling Cibulkova to breaking point, at which she did for 2-0. 
Dominika did not take this lying down, because it would have been extremely difficult physically there to achieve her goal of a break back.  So she chose the conventional route of standing and delivering some beautiful ground shots, the best which were clean winners down Makarova's backhand line along the way to righting the ship. 1-2 on serve.
On serve it remained until the seventh game, and even then Makarova looked safe at 40-0.  Then four ripping shots from Cibulkova turned it on its head and she had break point.  Only for a second as she poured one out of court.
A second chance also went begging in similar fashion. 
A third opportunity missed and Makarova held serve and the lead 4-3.

From 40-15, Cibulkova possibly blew her chance of a fourth round spot when she lost the next four points and her serve to trail 3-5.

Makarova served it out to win 6-2 6-7 (3) 6-3.

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