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Whenever Dominika Cibulkova and Vania King meet, be prepared for a doozy.
Their first encounter back in '07 went three tiebreaks, with King emerging the victor. The two played another thriller under sweltering conditions at the Aussie Open last year, with the American losing a set and 5-3 lead and falling behind 5-1 in the third before mounting a huge comeback to take the decider 7-5.
This time, at the French, the two pint-sized players toyed for nearly three hours before King emerged with yet another come-from-behind win.
For Cibulkova, the loss is both head-scratching and unsurprising. I considered her an outside dark horse to take this title—she's a former semifinalist with a solid clay-court game and has all the weapons to compete right along with the women's elite. But she struggles to find consistency, partly due to health struggles.
Right after mounting a big run to the semifinals of the French two years ago—during which she nearly double-bageled Maria Sharapova—and reaching a career high of No. 12 in the world, the Slovak suffered an awful rib injury that forced her to miss several months. Since then, she's picked up nice wins here and there and challenged several top players...yet losses like this one to King keep piling up.
Cibulkova's condition going into the match was shaky at best—she withdrew from tournaments in Rome and Brussels with yet another injury, this time to her ab. Yet the week before in Madrid, she took down Svetlana Kuznetsova and Sharapova in straights before losing a heartbreaker to eventual champ Petra Kvitova in the quarters.
Maybe the thoughts of losing out on a first title were fresh in her mind, maybe she was still coping with the ab ailment or maybe King's wall-like presence from the back of the court simply frustrated Cibulkova to no end. One thing is for certain: She needs to cut back on tight losses like this one and gut a few out.