Australian Open R1: (28) Kristina Mladenovic vs Dominika Cibulkova
One of the toughest first round match-ups at this year’s Australian Open sees 2014 finalist Dominika Cibulkova come up against the 28th seeded Kristina Mladenovic. This is a really tough draw for both ladies, especially Mladenovic given Cibulkova is arguably the highest quality unseeded player in this year’s draw. A particularly tough draw for The Frenchwoman given she will be aiming for her first career victory over Cibulkova in her sixth attempt.
Kristina Mladenovic’s preparation for the first Grand Slam of the year has been less than ideal. Mladenovic suffered back-to-back first round exits to start the season, succumbing to Alize Cornet in straight sets in Brisbane before being beaten in straight sets by Caroline Garcia in Sydney. Both losses were against solid opponents but it certainly isn’t ideal to head to Melbourne on the back of consecutive losses. Mladenovic did however have some success in the double event in Sydney, reaching the final alongside Caroline Garcia.
Dominika Cibulkova has played some of her best tennis at Melbourne Park over the last couple of years, going on a stunning run to the final in 2014 and backing that up with a quarter-final appearance last year where she lost to the eventual champion. Cibulkova has made a solid start to the season and arrives in Melbourne in good shape after reaching the semi-finals in Hobart last week. Dominika’s biggest problem so far in 2016 has been her serve, she really needs to improve in that area if she wants to reach the second week in Melbourne for a third year in a row.
Cibulkova holds a perfect 5-0 head-to-head record over Mladenovic. The pair met on two occasions in 2015, Cibulkova recorded a 6-2 6-2 win in Sydney and a 2-6 7-6 7-5 victory in New Haven. This is clearly not a good match-up for Mladenovic. Cibulkova is great at absorbing the kind of pace given to her by Mladenovic. I suspect Cibulkova will once again get the job done here, Dominika loves playing in Melbourne and really enjoys the conditions, she is going to be very hard to stop.