Powerful Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova has eliminated the last Australian at the Hobart International, steamrolling Gold Coast wildcard Kimberly Birrell.
The former world No.10 on Wednesday made light work of the 17-year-old, cruising to a 6-1 6-0 second-round victory to earn a quarter-finals berth.
“Today it was just like a little present to go on to the quarter-finals but I still had to be there and play well, she didn’t just give it to me,” Cibulkova told reporters.
On Thursday she is a clear favourite to grab a semi-final spot against Dutch qualifier Kiki Bertens.
For Birrell, who was contesting her first WTA main draw tournament, it’s all a learning experience.
“I knew she was going to be super intense,” said the world No.341 who has also been granted a wildcard to the Australian Open.
“I’m definitely going to take that away and that’s how I’m going to have to step up my own game and I know my fitness level and strength level is something I have to work on.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Germany’s Mona Barthel used painkillers for a lower back problem in a 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 win over Japan’s Naomi Osaka.
Playing a backhand in the fourth game, the 25-year-old felt a pinch and quickly sought treatment.
“At the beginning, I was like ‘wow, this is a lot of pain’,” Barthel said, admitting that she came close to withdrawing from the match.
The new complaint comes just a week after Barthel’s withdrawal from the Auckland Classic with a gastro illness and she fears she’s still run down.
The 2012 Hobart champion will undergo intense treatment ahead of her quarter-final with France’s Alize Cornet and says it’s too early to know what impact the injury could have on her Australian Open campaign.
“You never know – sometimes you wake up tomorrow and maybe everything is gone or maybe it is worse,” world No.45 Barthel said.
World No.103 Bertens scored an easy 6-3 6-1 win over Germany’s Annika Beck.
Late on Wednesday defending champion Heather Watson meets tournament No.4 seed Monica Niculescu.