WUHAN, China - No.10 seed Dominika Cibulkova escaped a stern challenge from Barbora Strycova late in the night in Wuhan, outlasting the Czech to claim the last semifinal spot at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open.
Yesterday's rain meant Strycova and Cibulkova needed to play both their third round matches and their quarterfinal on the same day. But it was Cibulkova who proved to be the fresher player, completing her 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory in two hours and twenty-eight minutes.
"Today was an extremely tough day," an exhausted Cibulkova said after the quarterfinal win. "I would say, one of the toughest situations of this year. It gives me great confidence, that I was able to play and have energy."
After completing a 6-2, 6-2 upset over No.5 seed Karolina Pliskova in the first match of the day, Cibulkova was back on court for the last one, taking on Strycova for the first time.
All of Strycova's matches in Wuhan have gone to three sets - including her 1-6, 6-4, 7-5 comeback win over Jelena Jankovic earlier in the day - and the hours on court seemed to take their toll on the Czech in the quarterfinal.
Cibulkova drew first blood early on, breaking Strycova in the fourth game to build a 3-1 lead. Strycova needed a few games to find her rhythm and brought up three break points against the Slovak at 4-2, but Cibulkova tamped down the resistance and grabbed the opening set.
In the second set it was Strycova who earned the decisive break early on, mixing up her baseline game by moving forward more often and finishing points at the net. Strycova pounced on every short ball and took the set to level the match, looking set to go for her third comeback in a row.
But Cibulkova had other ideas - she trailed by a break twice during the final set and immediately broke back both times to keep herself in striking distance. Strycova buried a backhand into the net to end Cibulkova's day of attrition and send her into the Wuhan semifinals.
"I was a little bit down in the second set, but I knew that I could still pull out a few games and play well," Cibulkova said. "I just wanted to win really badly, and it was pushing me forward. I wasn't nervous about it, it just gave me the power to go and stay focused until the end of the match."
Cibulkova's exhaustion clearly showed at the end of her three hours and 42 minutes on court, as she was forced to do her on-court interview from her chair, the cramps already kicking in.
She'll have to recover quickly, as she's set to take the court in the first singles match of the tomorrow against No.9 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.
"It's gonna be another tough match. I really need to get ready, have a good rest now, and just prepare for tomorrow."
The victory vaults the No.12-ranked Cibulkova back inside the WTA Top 10. She also strengthens her bid for a spot into the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, currently sitting at No.7 on the Road To Singapore leaderboard.