DUBAI — Top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki survived an edgy wobble before reaching the last 16 of the Dubai Open on her first visit to the two million dollar tournament.
The charismatic Dane had to summon resilience and level-headedness to fight back from 1-5 down against an in-form Dominika Cibulkova to win 6-2, 7-6 (7-2).
The buoyant and mobile Slovakian belied her world number 30 ranking to get the better of some athletic baseline exchanges in the middle of the match, and was within two points of taking the second set while serving at 5-2.
"I was getting a bit nervous," admitted Wozniacki. "But I went out there and I fought and didn't give up, and felt like I was in there all the time. So I thought it might be just a matter of time.
"It's a bit difficult to play here because the ball fies a bit, but the courts are pretty slow. You have to get used to it."
Wozniacki did that by making one break of serve for 3-5 with some carefully controlled, yet still forcing drives; then she broke again for 5-5 with the help of a successful appeal to the Hawkeye electronic replay system.
Cibulkova's bubbling baseline presence had pressured Wozniacki into a counter-hit which looked as though it might have landed long, and was called out.
But the Dane's appeal to the computerised replay showed the ball just clipping the outside edge of the baseline, preventing her from slipping to 30-love down, and enabling her to get the point replayed.
Had this not happened Wozniacki might well have found herself a coupls of minutes later at 40-30 and set point down rather than of 30-40 ahead in that crucial Cibulkova service game.
Instead Wozniacki converted that break point for 5-5 with an enterprisingly early backhand cross court return of serve which landed plumb on the sideline.
By the time the tie-break came along two games later she had re-acquired enough ground-stroking momentum to carry her steadily to a hard-fought victory.
Wozniacki next plays Shahar Peer, who yesterday became the first Israeli woman to compete in a UAE state, and who scored a high quality win for the second successive day.
Having beaten the 13th seeded Yanina Wickmayer in the first round, Peer now outplayed Virginie Razzano, last year's runner-up, by 6-2, 6-2.
The commitment required of Peer's effort was underlined by her once again overcoming the distractions of careful security, with special arrangements for accommodation, transport, changing and the scheduling of her matches.
"I am very happy with my performance," said the Israeli. "It was a difficult day for me yesterday because I had two matches and, you know, a lot of emotions, so I am very happy I could be out there and playing very very good tennis today."
However a scheduling dilemma arose from her victory, with the tournament organisers having to decide whether or not they should now schedule Peer on to the more conspicuous venue of the centre court.