NEW HAVEN — Dominika Cibulkova's groan said it all.
Cibulkova, the 13th-ranked singles player in the world, got things kicked off Friday afternoon at the Connecticut Open, as the WTA player representative in the main draw ceremony on the first day of qualifying matches at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale. Cibulkova's excitement transformed to a subtle groan when a fan drew her first-round matchup with No. 19 in the world Andrea Petkovic.
"I know [Petkovic] is a tough opponent; maybe I was expecting to get a little easier first round," said Cibulkova. "It is going to be a good first test — a good first round."
The four-time WTA title winner most recently won in Acapulco in February and was also a finalist in this year's Australian Open. But that victory was followed with a first-round loss to Petkovic in her next appearance, a Fed Cup match.
Like much of the top-level talent, Cibulkova is using this tournament to build some momentum heading into the US Open, the year's final Grand Slam event, starting August 25 in New York.
"I would say the draw is really pretty cool. You expect some players to drop out of a tournament a week before the slam, but this year is different with so many good girls asking for a wild card to get here," Cibulkova said. "It is pretty tough this year … That's why I came here: to get some more matches."
The field for the tournament, running through Aug. 23, will consist of 11 of the top 25 players in the world, including players who have won titles here: No. 2 Simona Halep (2013), No. 4 Petra Kvitova (2012) and No. 12 Caroline Wozniacki (2008-2011). Kvitova, who won the Wimbledon title this year, is joined in the field by Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard (No. 8).
Halep is the top seed, followed by Kvitova, Bouchard and Wozniacki.
The 2011 US Open singles champion, Sam Stosur, 2013 Wimbledon semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens, Petkovic and Cibulkova were awarded the final four wild card spots to the main draw.
Six spots in the main draw will come from three days of qualifying. Highlighting the qualifying round was former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, who defeated Tsvetana Pironkova 7-6, 6-4.
Timea Bacsinszky defeated 20-year-old American Lauren Davis (No. 48 in the world) 6-7, 7-5, 6-0 on Friday.
"I am really happy about this [win]; New Haven is a tough draw," Bacsinszky said.
Bacsinszky, who was ranked as high as No. 37 in 2010, was out of tennis and fell to No. 285 by the end of 2013. However the 25-year-old from Switzerland has hired a new coach and recovered from injuries. Currently ranked No. 78, Bacsinszky hopes to continue her upward trend.
"Before … lots of time I was playing like I wanted to win every match all the time. It kind of put a certain pressure on myself," she said. "Ever since Wimbledon last year, my goal has been not to win this, or this, or this — it has been where do I want to be in 10 years."
Formerly the Pilot Pen and New Haven Open, the tournament was renamed the Connecticut Open presented by United Technologies this year. The Connecticut Tennis Center has hosted the event since 1998.
The singles and doubles finals are Aug. 23. The singles winner gets $120,000.
"I've played here many times — it is always nice and different," Cibulkova said.
In all it was a tough day for Americans trying to qualify. Of the seven Americans in the qualifying round, only Nicole Gibbs won on Friday. Gibbs defeated Stefanie Voegele, 6-4, 6-2.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun