Last year at this time, Dominika Cibulkova made small headlines by losing in the first round of the U.S. Open to 15-year-old American CiCi Bellis.
Monday, she made small headlines for the right reason, upsetting No. 7 seed Ana Ivanovic in the first match at Arthur Ashe Stadium court with its new roof super structure in place.
Cibulkova won, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, and after losing her first serve, she seemed mostly in control for the remainder of the match.
The 23-year-old Slovakian has an inconsistent playing history, having reached No. 10 in the world before going on a slide ever since, exaggerated by an Achilles tendon injury that required surgery this winter and kept her out of competition for nearly four months. Now ranked No. 50, she seemed as likely to lose in an opening round as she did reaching a quarterfinal.
But a quarterfinal result at New Haven buoyed her confidence.
"I knew my game is getting together," she said Monday. "I'm just happy I had the chance to play the first match on Ashe today. It was extra energy, extra motivation."
It was a tough draw for Ivanovic, facing a player whose potential far exceeds her ranking.
"I felt like it was so close, [I] created chances, but I always felt she came up with the good shots . . . It was just unfortunate we came up against one another so early in a tournament."
Unfinished roof has uses
The Arthur Ashe Stadium roof isn't complete and won't be closable until next year, but its superstructure and temporary skin on the west and south sides is already proving a benefit to players. In windy conditions, the stadium was infamous for creating swirling currents of air that could mean just striking a ball was a challenge.
Monday was the first day of official play, and so far the players like what they are experiencing.
"I looked in the locker room and it said, like, 15-mph wind, and I didn't feel a thing," said Monica Puig, who lost to Venus Williams in the second match. "Definitely the roof helps shield that."
"It felt more like indoors a little bit," Ivanovic said. "I practiced there the other day when it was sunny and the shadows were a little bit strange . . . But it was really nice to play. The conditions were perfect."