Cibulkova pulls through Tokyo opener

Fifth seed Dominika Cibulkova pummelled Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 6-3 on Tuesday to storm into the second round of the Pan Pacific Open. The Slovakian world number nine produced glimpses of the red-hot form that won her four of her eight career titles last year with some brutal hitting in the Tokyo sunshine.

Cibulkova, who climbed as high as fourth in the women’s rankings in 2016, underlined her early dominance by ripping a backhand down the line to take the first set. It was one-way traffic in the second set too as the 28-year-old from Bratislava broke in the fourth game, before putting Suarez Navarro out of her misery with a thumping forehand on match point after one hour and 24 minutes.

Elsewhere, Caroline Garcia restored a measure of French pride after eighth seed Kristina Mladenovic was humiliated 6-0, 6-0 by China’s Wang Qiang in the first round on Monday. Garcia, seeded ninth, had no such trouble and comfortably overpowered Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 6-4, 6-3.

Last year’s surprise Rio Olympic gold medallist Monica Puig also advanced but had to work to beat Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei 2-6, 6-1, 6-1. The Puerto Rican will face top seed Garbine Muguruza in the last 16. In other matches, Russia twice got the better of their American rivals, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova battling past Catherine Bellis 4-6, 6-0, 6-4 and Daria Kasatkina also taking three sets to see off Madison Brengle 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Muguruza, Wimbledon champion and newly crowned women’s world number one, heads a strong field in Tokyo featuring several top 10 players including Karolina Pliskova, Caroline Wozniacki and Johanna Konta.

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