Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia serves the ball to Francesca Schiavone of Italy during their match at the Qatar Open tennis tournament in Doha, yesterday. Rybarikova won 7-5, 4-6 7-6 (7/3).
DOHA: Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova yesterday beat clay-court specialist Francesca Schiavone of Italy in three sets to advance at the $2.5m Qatar Open where Australian Open losing finalist Dominka Cibulkova and Daniela Hantuchova retired due to health concerns.
Twenty-five-year-old Rybarikova, ranked number 32, won 7-5, 4-6 7-5 in almost three hours. It was Rybarikova’s first win over her Italian rival.
In another centre court clash, 24-year-old Cibulkova of Slovakia pulled out of her first-round match against Russian wildcard Alisa Kleybanova with both players tied at 5-all in the first set.
Before deciding to pull out of her match, Cibulkova took time out for a change-room break but returned only to quit before the end of the first set due to ‘gastroenteritis’.
In the second-last match of the night, Hantuchova, 30, retired hurt while leading against Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic.
The tall Slovakian seemingly pulled out with a leg injury with scoreboard showing 7-5, 2-0 in her favour.
Ivanovic said about Hantuchova: “It is never easy to finish like this. I hope she gets better. But the first set was really competitive. There was some really good tennis.But she started struggling after the first set.”
Kleybanova, who now stands at 3-0 in head-to-head against Cilbukova, later sympathized with the Slovakian.
“First of all, I am feeling very sorry for Dominika. I was looking forward to a great match with her and obviously this win doesn’t feel as good as it would have been after a full match,” Kleybanova said.
“But of course I am happy to be in the second round and you know it is great to be back playing, and I really enjoyed so far. I hope to have some good matches,” she added.
Earlier, Rybarikova was thrilled with her upset of Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion.
“I am so happy. I ran well in the match. She is such a strong player,” Rybarikova said after the match. “It was an amazing match. She is such a tough player because she has speed.
“She almost ran away with the match,” Rybarikova said.
When asked about her goals, Rybarikova said: “I just want to be healthy in 2014. The goals are pretty much like last year.”
Cancer-survivor Kleybanova said she needed more matches to feel her game when she was ranked number 20.
“Definitely I need more matches and tournaments this year because so far I have only played two matches. Basically (it was) my first win in 2014. I need some more .... It feels so strange, but I am looking forward to it,” Kleybanova said.
“I have been training well. I have been training a lot. I am very positive and I am enjoying playing tennis. Good tennis and the results are going to come for sure. I just need to keep doing what I am doing,” she added.
Kleybanova said she was ready to get back into the bracket of top players.
“It is also not easy to get into the rhythm the second time. Everything is changing. It is not easy to catch up with players who have kept playing all these years that I was out (because of cancer),” Kleybanova said.
“For me, I just want to focus on myself and go ahead. I know I can be there. I just have to believe in myself,” she said.
“I was really looking forward to playing this week in Doha. Unfortunately I became very sick today and suddenly did not feel well. I wanted to give it a try today and I did everything I could to try to play, but I could not continue,” Cibulkova said regarding her retirement from her match against Kleybanova.
Earlier, Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova rallied from a set down to beat Slovakia’s Tadeja Majeric 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 in 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Also yesterday, Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi beat Varvara Lepchenko of the US in straight sets to reach the third round. Kanepi, who fired 4 aces, won 6-3, 6-4 in 74 minutes.
China’s Shuai Zhang also advanced with a straight-set win over qualifier Maryna Zanevska of Ukraine.
Zhang won 6-3, 6-2 in exactly one hour of tennis on court number three.
On court number four, there was good news for Slovakia’s Jana Cepelova who beat France’s Kristina Mladenovic. Cepelova won 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) in 1 hour and 50 minutes.
In another first-round clash, Romania’s Monica Niculescu crushed Omani wildcard Fatma Al Nabhani 6-1, 6-0 in just 54 minutes.
Meanwhile, Croatian qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni proved too wily for Austria’s Yvonne Muesburger 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in 1 hours 52 minutes.
Romania’s Sorana Cirstea also advanced with a three-set win over Russian qualifier Alla Kudryavtseva 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 in 1 hour 48 minutes.