LONDON (Reuters) – Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova warmed up for Wimbledon with her first grasscourt title, beating in-form Czech Karolina Pliskova 7-5 6-3 at the Aegon International in Eastbourne on Saturday.
But the former Australian Open finalist, seeded 12th, had to work hard for the victory early on. She had her serve broken in the first game of the match, setting the pattern for an entertaining tussle as the players traded breaks with abandon.
Cibulkova won three games in a row after her hesitant start before Pliskova hit back to lead 4-3.
The windy conditions were troubling both players on serve and Cibulkova broke again to level at 4-4 and again when her opponent served at 5-6 to take the set.
Life was easier in the second set for Cibulkova. She moved 3-1 ahead with some fierce groundstrokes and clinically finished things off when serving for the match at 5-3 to seal her second title of the year after triumphing indoors in Katowice.
“This tournament is the toughest one before the grand slam because everybody wants to play on grass and this is a big one,” Cibulkova said.
“The competition here was really strong. I was able to beat the top players on the grass, it gives me a lot of confidence.”
Cibulkova will go into Wimbledon seeded 20 and looks capable of having a long run at the All England Club. She faces Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the first round on Tuesday and hopes that might be an omen ahead of the championships.
“I played her once at Wimbledon. I won 7-5 in the third set in a really tough match,” she said. “In that year I played my quarter-final at Wimbledon. So if I pass that, it can be a good Wimbledon for me.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman. Editing by Adrian Warner)