Knapp v Cibulkova:
They have never played before.
Knapp knocked out fellow Italian Vinci in 3 sets in the last round. She lost her way a little in set 2 but generally served well. Four years ago she was ranked 35 so even though she has dropped down the rankings she still knows how to play the better players and the tactics involved. Its just a matter of getting the body to do what she knows it needs to!
Two weeks ago she came through qualifying in Estoril to reach the semi final where she lost to Suarez Navarro in straight sets. She was probably tired having played 7 matches that week. She defeated 2nd seed Kirilenko en route to the semis.
Cibulkova has had an average season so far but a couple of good weeks in March/April saw her come so close to beating Azarenka in Miami. She then moved to the clay of Barcelona and lost in the final to Sara Errani.
Cibulkova’s weakness is her serve. It can’t help her being so small! I think Knapp will have the opportunity to attack the serve today and her recent form suggests she will have some success with that.
Cibulkova starts at 1.40 and that is a lay from the start for me. I feel Knapp has a real chance of at least taking the opening set. Cibulkova will certainly fight all the way and if Knapp does manage to take the first set I would expect a 3 setter. Cibulkova is favourite to take a long match.
Update: Knapp took a set but it was the second set! She threatened serve in the early games but there was no great price rise early on.
Cibulkova won 6-3, 4-6, 6-1.
Wawrinka v Tipsarevic:
They have only played once before which was in a qualifying round 8 years ago. It went to 3 sets but as it was on a hard court and so long ago its pretty much irrelevant.
What a week Tipsarevic had on the blue clay in Madrid! He beat Simon in an excellent 3rd round match and then faced Djokovic in the quarter final. Despite the complaints about the surface it was the same for both players and Tipsarevic dealt with it better and won in straight sets. I don’t think he was happy with his performance in the semi final against Federer but it was still an excellent week’s work.
Wawrinka’s clay court season has been going well with a quarter final in Monte Carlo ( lost to Nadal) and a semi final in Estoril ( lost to Del Potro). In Madrid he reached the third round losing to Djokovic.
Wawrinka has lost his last 10 matches against top 10 players. He has a decent record in Rome with a final and a quarter final in the last 4 years. It has been a top 10 player who knocked him out in the last 4 years.
Tipsarevic has a poor record in Rome although in 2008 and 2009 he came up against Gonzo and was a massive underdog. He didn’t play in 2011 and 2010 saw a first round loss to Chardy.
Tipsarevic had a tough week last week both mentally and physically. He may be a little jaded in this match if it looks like being a tough one and with no points to defend he can perhaps be forgiven for a lack of motivation.
Wawrinka is the betetr clay courter and I have to give him the edge here. I don’t expect Tipsarevic to roll over but I’m not sure he will have the heart for the fight if he goes a set behind.
Update: Wawrinka was broken in the very first game but he broke back immediately. Neither player was holding easily. Wawrinka was leading 5-1 in the first set and served for the set twice before he succeeded.
In the second set Wawrinka won an early break and Tipsarevic more or less gave up after that.
Wawrinka won 6-3, 6-1.