Defending champion Dominika Cibulkova battled back from a set down to defeat Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 and advance to the second round of the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday.
World No. 29 Makarova started brightly as broke immediately in the opening set, but Slovakian Cibulkova, the tournament’s fifth seed, sealed a break of her own in the fourth game to level at 2-2.
Undeterred, a dominant Makarova produced two more breaks on the hardcourt at Moscow’s indoor Olympic arena to take the first set in 29 minutes.
In the second, Cibulkova raced out to an early 3-0 lead, but the left-handed Makarova fought back to level proceedings at four games all.
However, a service break for Cibulkova in the 10th game allowed to her even the score at one set apiece and send the first meeting between the two players into a decider.
Cibulkova, currently 14th in the WTA rankings, then moved up a gear in the final set to establish a 4-0 lead, before closing it out after two hours on court.
“The surface is very much different from the one here last year, and it’s not the best surface I’d say,” Cibulkova said. “It was not easy to get into the rhythm, that’s why I had so many mishits in the first set, but then I got into the rhythm, hitting more short and running better, and feeling much more comfortable on the court. I started to be more aggressive and I could go for my shots.”
Cibulkova will now face Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, who saw off Varvara Lepchenko of the US 6-0, 7-6 (7/3) for a place in the last eight.
Meanwhile, unheralded Simona Halep of Romania upset Russian sixth seed Nadia Petrova in a tough three-setter 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 to set up a second-round match with Vesna Dolonc of Serbia.
In the men’s section of the tournament, three-time champion and home favorite Nikolay Davydenko made an early exit, succumbing 5-7, 4-6 to unseeded compatriot Alex Bogomolov.
Bogomolov will next play either Croatian giant Ivo Carlovic or Italy’s Simone Bolelli for a place in the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, Argentine seventh seed Carlos Berlocq, booked his spot in round two, after clawing his way back from a set down to beat Andrey Kuznetsov 1-6, 6-4, 6-3.