Pliskova, Cibulkova lose openers


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Second-seeded Karolina Pliskova and third-seeded Dominika Cibulkova both lost their opening matches at the Dubai Tennis Championships on Tuesday.

Plikova fell 6-2, 6-4 to Kristina Mladenovic, while Cibulkova lost 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 to Ekaterina Makarova in the second round after both had received byes.

Top-seeded Angelique Kerber, who would return to the No. 1 ranking if she wins the Dubai title, won her opening match 6-4, 6-3 against fellow German Mona Barthel.

“It’s always tough to play against a German,” Kerber said. “I was really happy with my performance today. I played my game.”

Pliskova won her second title of the year in Doha last week, defeating former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the final. She won the Brisbane tournament in the first week of the season.

Pliskova, who received a first round bye, had little time to adjust to the different conditions in Dubai from Doha – the courts are playing faster and the ball flies a bit more. Doha was also colder and wetter in terms of weather conditions.

In particular, Pliskova struggled with her serve, double faulting six times and losing her serve on four of nine break points she presented to Mladenovic.

“I was just playing, like, really bad, so there is not much what you can do about it,” Pliskova said. “Like, I still had a chance in the second set, but yeah, she played some good points.

“If you are playing like this and your opponent is playing well, then you’re probably gonna lose the match,” she added.

It looked like Pliskova might get back on track when Mladenovic was serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set. The Frenchwoman fell behind 0-40, but saved all three break point opportunities to close out the match.

Pliskova boasts a 15-2 win-loss record for the season. Her only prior defeat in 2017 was to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the Australian Open quarterfinals.

Mladenovic won her first career title in St. Petersburg three weeks ago. It was her fourth career final appearance.