We have a fascinating clash installed for us in Dominika Cibulkova taking on resurgent Sloane Stephens. Both players are in good form right now which suggest this could be a thrilling match-up.
Sloane Stephens [No.84]
Route to this stage
R1: d. Roberta Vinci, 7-5 6-1
Sloane Stephens has only played three tournaments this year but has probably had one of the best seasons of her career already! Recovering from surgery to participate in the Toronto-Cincinnati double, the American made back-to-back semifinals in the two Premier 5 events for the first time ever. She amassed eight top 50 wins during this span, including wins over former World No.1 Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova. Stephens continued her good form on to the US Open where she defeated Roberta Vinci 7-5 6-1 to set up the match with Cibulkova.
(11) Dominika Cibulkova [No.10]
Route to this stage
R1: d. Jana Cepelova, 6-7(5) 6-3 6-2
Dominika Cibulkova has endured a tough 2017 season that saw her drop out of the top 10 but she seems to be finding her form at just the right time of the season where she will be defending Wuhan finalist points and WTA Finals title points (if she can even make it there) very soon. The Slovak’s only high points of the season came in back-to-back semifinals at St.Petersburg and Doha. The next semifinal for her came five months later at last week’s New Haven Open where she beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Elise Mertens before falling to Daria Gavrilova in the final. Cibulkova looks close to her near best with the power forehand that saw her win the WTA Finals last year but she will need some more matches to get into that state again.
Stat: In only two tournaments, Stephens has amassed a 3-3 record against Top 15 players (wins over Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova x2)
Thoughts: Based on recent form, this could be a cracker. Cibulkova seems to be finding back her form and her toughing out that three-set win over Cepelova is a sign of her growing confidence. Stephens will definitely make life difficult for the No.11 seed with her aggressive gamestyle. She hit 22 winners against 29 unforced errors in her opener against Vinci and won 67% of first serve points. This will need to improve with Cibulkova such a precise and aggressive returner. Cibulkova had cleaner numbers in her first rounder (40 winenrs to 31 unforced errors) but against a player of class like Stephens it could be difficult to replicate. In my draw challenge I went for Stephens but I feel like Cibulkova’s fighting edge seems to be back and if this goes the distance, the Slovak could edge this out with her better mental strength.