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Safarova has makeover and her luck changes

Lucie Safarova hits a forehand
by Dan Imhoff
Friday 27 June 2014

Lucie Safarova may want to stick with her brunette look after reaching back-to-back Grand Slam fourth rounds for the first time in seven years.

After letting match point slip in her third-round battle with eventual champion Li Na in Melbourne to start the year, the blonde Czech lefty managed to shake the disappointment, arriving at Roland Garros with a darker do before going on to make her first fourth-round showing at a major since 2007.

Making her ninth Wimbledon appearance, the 27-year-old saw off Slovakian No.10 seed Dominka Cibulkova 6-4, 6-2 overcoming a losing head-to-head record to lead a barrage of Czech players into the fourth round, with her countrywomen Petra Kvitova, Tereza Smitkova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova later winning through.

“It’s after seven years actually. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the fourth round and obviously I’m excited and happy about it especially against Dominika, as I had never beaten her, so it’s the more exciting for me,” Safarova said.

Could the brown locks be the change she needed?

“Maybe,” she laughed. “Some change. Well no, since the beginning of the year I’ve had a good season. I’ve had a couple of tight matches, tough losses against top-10 players and I’ve always been really close but not as far into the tournament. But my tennis was good and I’m happy that finally I’ve transferred it into a great result.”

Cibulkova, who advanced to her first Grand Slam final in Melbourne to start the year – with wins over Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska en route – was looking to rebound from a disappointing French Open where she fell to Sam Stosur in the third round.

Her best run on the grass at Wimbledon came in 2011 where she upended the then No.1 Caroline Wozniacki on her way to the quarter-finals.

But on Thursday, the powerful 5ft 3in pocket rocket was backing up after claiming a marathon two hours 35 minutes battle with Belgian Alison van Uytvanck and some of her signature tenacity had been sapped.

Safarova broke early and held for 3-1 with a lunging volley winner off a Cibulkova passing attempt. Serving for the set, the Czech No.23 seed flattened out a forehand down the line before three straight backhand errors had her opponent pumping herself up; her fist-pumping  getting her to within sight of breaking.

Unable to maintain the pressure, Cibulkova fired wide to hand her opponent the opener after 41 minutes.

As the sun reappeared, everything was going right for Safarova. She hit a forehand winner, which landed smack bang in the corner and followed it up with an ace for 2-0.

When another Cibulkova backhand found the net, the writing was on the wall for the Australian Open finalist as she fell behind a double break in the second.

Then the momentary distraction from above she was looking for. A trio of pigeons decided to land on the Slovak’s side of the court and were in no hurry to shift. She had to chase them away swirling her racket three times before a giggling Safarova could serve.

“Oh that was really funny. There were just three there. They seemed to really like it there,” Safarova said.

The distraction worked in Cibulkova’s favour. She went on to break serve with a sharp-angled crosscourt backhand winner off the serve before holding for 2-3.

Putting the winged-invasion behind her, Safarova secured the double break once more and secured her fourth-round berth after running down a volley to stab the forehand winner down the line.

Who said blondes have more fun?

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