In a battle that pits one of the Tour’s most exciting young talents against a veteran of unquestionable quality, 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko takes on former Tour Finals winner Dominika Cibulkova. The powerful Ostapenko has already done much to make amends for her early exit at the French Open, but with the draw so open she will surely view herself as having a real chance to go all the way. But Cibulkova will be nurturing her own dreams of glory. Who will come out on top?
Ostapenko and Cibulkova have met twice previously, and it is the Slovakian who has claimed the victory on both occasions. In their first meeting, which came in 2016 on the grass courts at Devonshire Park in the round of 32, Cibulkova ran out a comfortable 6-3 6-3 victor. In their second clash, in 2017 in Indian Wells, Cibulkova had to work harder for the victory, winning 6-4 3-6 6-3 in the first round. But it is worth remembering that Ostapenko has won a Grand Slam title since the pair last met.
Path to the quarterfinals
Ostapenko began her Wimbledon campaign with a confidence building 6-3 7-6 win over British wildcard Katy Dunne on Centre Court. She followed that victory by dismantling 2013 semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens 6-1 6-3 in second round action. That set up a clash with Sharapova’s conqueror, Vitalia Diatchenko. The Russian never threatened a second giant killing as Ostapenko dismissed her challenge 6-0 6-4. She then accounted for Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who had earlier beaten Petra Kvitova, 7-6 6-0.
Cibulkova finish strongly to defeat Alize Cornet of France 7-6 6-1 in her opening match at the Championships. She backed that up by disappointing the Wimbledon crowd by defeating British #1 and last year’s semifinalist Johanna Konta 6-3 6-4. The Slovakian then crushed 15th seed Elise Mertens 6-2 6-2 to reach the fourth round. There she faced Hsieh Su-wei, who had upset top seeded Halep in the third round but was dispatched 6-4 6-1 by Cibulkova.
How do they match up?
Ostapenko at her best is almost unplayable such is the power she can call upon off the ground. Her forehand is her best weapon, and the Latvian hits it with a devastating mixture of spin and pace, making it incredibly difficult for opponents to defend against. Her backhand is not quite so formidable, but it is still a dangerous weapon in its own right. Her serve, however, is somewhat lacking in comparison with her monstrous groundstrokes.
Cibulkova’s effort and desire are never lacking when she steps onto the court, and that has allowed the 5’3” Slovakian to overcome opponents greater than her in stature and reputation. But she is not without weapons herself, and like Ostapenko she favours her forehand. The diminutive Cibulkova makes up for her lack of height when stepping to the line with a high ball toss, which usually serves her well. But if the windy conditions of Monday persist into Tuesday, she may encounter problems.
Both players are yet to drop a set and have been playing some of the best tennis of their careers at Wimbledon. There looks to be precious little to separate them. But Ostapenko does have the experience of going all the way at a Slam to call upon and the game that took her there. Her greater power may just prove crucial in a tight clash thanks to the grass courts favouring attacking tennis. Expect Ostapenko to just about get the job done in a tight three-set match.