After breaking through and reaching the final of the Australian Open last season, Dominika Cibulkova has been unable to match that intensity at any other stage of the season. After a disappointing year, the runner-up will return to Melbourne with the hope of being able to replicate that run through the draw this time around as well. She will begin her campaign against a tough Kirsten Flipkens, whom she has encountered on four previous occasions and has split the head to head series 2-2.
Having dropped out of the Top 10, Dominika Cibulkova began her year in Sydney, where she defeated Kristina Mladenovic 6-2 6-2 before facing local upstart Jarmila Gajdosova, who rallied from a set down to defeat her 1-6 6-3 6-4. It was a surprising end to Cibulkova’s attempt to garner pre-Aussie Open momentum, and she was forced to focus her efforts on training instead of match experience.
While Flipkens was at a different tournament that week, she also had a similar trajectory to Cibulkova, as she won her opening match against Johanna Larsson 7-6(1) 1-6 7-6(3) but then suffered a defeat at the hands of CoCo Vandeweghe 6-1 6-7(5) 7-5. It was a short stay in Auckland for Kirsten, but still gave her time to complete her preparation for season-opening Grand Slam event.
This marks the fifth time that these two competitors will meet on the professional tour. Having split their previous four meetings, this will also serve as a rubber match of sorts – both to determine who takes the lead in the series, as well as who advances to the second round of the tournament. Cibulkova won their only previous Grand Slam meeting back in 2009, and their most recent meeting in Tokyo last season with relative ease. Given that, and her motivation to succeed in Melbourne and defend her points, expect Cibulkova to produce a better match than any of hers in recent memory.
Prediction: Dominika Cibulkova in Straight Sets