World no. 1 Naomi Osaka has made a good start at Madrid Mutua Open, defeating Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 7-6 in just under two hours for the 15th win of the season. It was the third win for Osaka over Cibulkova in as many matches and the crowd had the opportunity to watch a high-quality contest between two aggressive baseliners who both finished the encounter with more winners than unforced errors.
Naomi struggled on the second serve but did enough to cross the finish line in straight sets, saving three out of five break points and delivering four breaks of serve to book the place in the last 32. Cibulkova has won just one out of seven matches on the WTA tournaments in 2019, making a good start today with a break in game three before Osaka rattled off five straight games for a 6-2, gathering the momentum before the second set where she had to work harder to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard.
Leading 4-2 in set number two, the Slovak lost the advantage when Naomi broke back in game eight, with four good holds sending them into a tie break that offered 11 mini-breaks in 14 points! In the end, Naomi prevailed 8-6 to seal the deal and avoid a decider and more time spent on the court.
Belinda Bencic earned the 23rd win of the season, toppling Alison Van Uytvanck 6-4, 7-3 in an hour and 27 minutes. The Swiss lost serve three times and managed to overcome that deficit with a rock-solid performance on the return, stealing almost 60% of the points behind the Belgian's first serve and scoring six breaks from 15 opportunities.
They traded breaks in the opening games of the match and Belinda grabbed another one in game seven, moving 4-3 up and closing the set with two good holds for a 6-4. The second set saw six breaks in the last seven games as the servers lost the ground completely, four on Bencic's tally that pushed her over the top and into the second round.
Viktoria Kuzmova sent the 16th seed Julia Goerges packing with a 7-5, 6-4 triumph in an hour and 33 minutes, beating the German for the first time in five matches. The Slovak saved five out of six break points to keep the pressure on the other side of the net and Goerges couldn't deal with it, getting broken three times from eight opportunities given to Kuzmova to end her Madrid campaign in the first round.
Viktoria claimed the last three games of the opening set for a 7-5 and stayed on the same course at the beginning of set number two as well, scoring an early break and keeping it in the remaining games to prevail and deliver the 14th victory this year.
Struggling with a knee injury, Elina Svitolina returned for the first time since Miami and suffered a 6-4, 7-6 loss to Pauline Parmentier in an hour and 38 minutes. As the result suggests, it was a close match that could have gone to either side but Parmentier kept her focus in the crucial moments to forge a great win, saving two out of four break points and stealing Svitolina's serve on three occasions to advance into the second round.
The French player raced into a 5-1 lead before Elina found some rhythm, pulling one break back in game eight and building confidence ahead of the second set where she overcame an early deficit to stay competitive until the tie break that Pauline grabbed 8-6 on the fourth match point.
In an all-Chinese battle, Saisai Zheng battled past Yafan Wang 7-5, 7-6 in two hours and 24 minutes, trailing 4-2 in the opening set before performing a turnaround and sealing the deal in the second set tie break for the winning start.
Donna Vekic took down the 15th seed Qiang Wang 7-5, 6-4 in an hour and 45 minutes, fending off six out of eight break points and producing four breaks of serve to cross the finish line first. The Croat saved a set point at 4-5 in the opening set, taking the last three games in both sets to kick off the campaign on a high note.
Petra Martic ousted the struggling Spaniard Garbine Muguruza 7-5, 7-6 in just under two hours, repelling eight out of ten break points and staying ahead in the pivotal moments to bring the win home, especially after saving three set points at 4-5 in set number one.
Muguruza had set points in the tenth game of the second set as well but it wasn't to be for her, squandering them all and losing the tie break 7-2 to propel the Croat through. Sorana Cirstea came from a set down to topple the 13th seed Madison Keys 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, playing better and better as the match progressed and delivering a much-needed victory after a slow start of the year.