Polona Hercog came back from a set down to stun No.2 seed Dominika Cibulkova in the first round at the Grand Prix Son Altesse Royale La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Rabat. The Slovenian, who came off the final clash in Istanbul on Sunday, needed almost three hours to overcome the Slovak who had lost in the qualifying rounds in her lone previous appearance in the tournament in 2005, 2-6 7-5 6-4.
“Dominika is a very experienced player and she plays with high intensity, but I managed to put her out of her rhythm a little bit,” Hercog explained in her on-court interview. I was struggling a little bit in the beginning because I only arrived yesterday from Istanbul so the conditions were very different".
Cibulkova, playing her first tournament since Indian Wells after having to withdraw from the Miami Open due to illness, won more points but still surrendered to her second first-round defeat of the season. Hercog came back for the first time this year to claim her 75th main draw win on clay.
To seal the 250th overall success on this surface and the third quarter-final in Rabat after losing in 2014 to eventual champion María-teresa Torró-flor 7-6 7-6 and in 2009 to Alisa Kleybanova 6-3 6-4, Hercog will need to beat Paula Badosa Gibert who defeated fellow qualifier Fiona Ferro 5-7 6-4 6-0.
The Spaniard came back to win after losing the first set for the sixth time this year and clinched her third main draw career win. No.1 seed Elise Mertens demolished Kristina Kucova 60 60 to extend her 8-match winning streak.
The Belgian will face Laura Siegemund to improve her best result in her second time here in Rabat. Former runner-up Timea Babos, who lost to Svitolina in the 2015 title match and also enjoyed a semifinal run at this event in 2016, lost to the Romanian lucky loser Alexandra Dulgheru 26 76(7) 75.
The No.4 seed was up 4-2 in the decider and served for the match at 5-4. Dulgheru had saved a couple of set points in the second and managed to celebrate the second comeback win of the season against the highest-ranked opponent she has defeated so far in 2018.