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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, May 5, 2019

Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka broke four times defeating Dominika Cibulkova, 6-2, 7-6 (6) to power into the Mutua Madrid Open second round.

Photo credit: Porsche Tennis Grand Prix Facebook

A shifting sense of balance makes clay the most challenging surface for Naomi Osaka.

The world No. 1 showed traction and tenacity on dirt defeating Dominika Cibulkova, 6-2, 7-6 (6) to power into the Mutua Madrid Open second round.

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It was Osaka's first career Madrid main-draw victory.

Pouncing on second serves sometimes four feet inside the baseline, Osaka broke serve four times rallying from a 2-4 second-set deficit in improving to 15-4 on the season.

An abdominal injury forced Osaka out of the Stuttgart semifinals and she sported taping on her stomach during her Madrid practice sessions.

Looking fit and playing fast, Osaka pounded 43 winners, including thumping eight aces beating the 2009 Roland Garros semifinalist for the third time in as many meetings.

The top-seeded Japanese will face a Spanish wild card—either Lara Arruabarrena or Sara Sorribes Tormo—in the second round.

The feisty Cibulkova drew the first break today only to see Osaka convert her fourth break point to break back and level after four games.

That break empowered Osaka who charged through five consecutive games to snatch the 42-minute opening set when Cibulkova sailed a forehand.

Commanding the center of the court, Osaka slammed forehands into both corners overpowering the 5'3" Slovak during her surge. Osaka served 72 percent and doubled Cibulkova's winner output—18 to 9—building a one-set lead.

Though the world No. 33 had never taken more than two games from Osaka in five career sets, Cibulkova loves a good fight and set out to create one in the second set.

Carving out drop shots early in the set, Cibulkova broke at 15 to start the second and fended off a break point confirming for a 2-0 lead.

Pushed to deuce in each of her first three service games to start the set, Cibulkova hung tough building a 4-2 lead.

Cibulkova won more points played on her second serve, but the imposing shadow Osaka cast creeping close to pounce on second serves preyed on the Slovak's mind. Cibulkova double faulted back the break for 4-all.

The two-time Grand Slam champion rolled to a 5-2 lead in the tie breaker, but Cibulkova wasn't through. She answered with a three-point run to level then crunched a crosscourt forehand to deny match point and level at 6-all.

Osaka slid a serve down the T for a second match point and closed with a shout on a Cibulkova error.

Dubai champion Belinda Bencic swept Alison Van Uytvanck, 6-4,6-3, setting up a second-round meeting with Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova.

World No. 25 Donna Vekic defeated 15th-seeded Qiang Wang, 7-5,6-4.


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