Tokyo: Fifth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova is targeting a strong finish to the season after dispatching Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 6-3 to book a second-round spot in the Pan Pacific Open on Tuesday.
Cibulkova has momentum after posting her best result of the season in August when reaching the final of the Connecticut Open.
She carried that to Tokyo, racing 5-1 ahead. Suarez Navarro broke in a seventh game that contained four deuces, and briefly threatened to fight her way back.
Last year’s WTA Finals champion, Cibulkova broke in the third game of the second set, and again to love in the final game.
It has rarely gone so well for Cibulkova this year. The weight of expectation following last year’s four titles proved too much.
“Since the trip to the US, even though I lost in the third round in Cincinnati to Jo Konta, I started to feel I was coming back,” she said.
“Then in New Haven, even though I lost the final, I was really close to winning. Right now, I feel the best on court that I have all year.
“I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, that I have to repeat the same great year. Now I’ve lost this pressure. I want to enjoy the fact I’ve found my form and I feel fresh for this tournament and the others in Asia. I want to take this chance.”
Cibulkova next plays Katerina Siniakova. The Czech defeated qualifier Jana Cepelova 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. Polish qualifier Magda Linette surprised Cibulkova’s Connecticut conqueror, Daria Gavrilova, 2-6, 6-0, 7-6 (3). Second-seeded Karolina Pliskova lies in wait on Wednesday.
Caroline Garcia — seeded following the withdrawal of virus-hit Agnieszka Radwanska — beat lucky loser Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4 6-3. Garcia next meets home-crowd favourite Kurumi Nara, handed a wild card entry.
Shelby Rogers of the US will face defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, after defeating wild card Risa Ozaki 6-2, 7-6 (5).