A determined Dominika Cibulkova is back for another shot at the Australian Open, this time without an achilles tendon complaint which the Slovakian says had troubled her for years.
A finalist at Melbourne Park in 2014, who again progressed to the quarters in 2015, the now-fit world No.38 should pose an even-greater threat this year.
Cibulkova, knocked out of the Brisbane International on Tuesday by Italian Roberta Vinci, will contest the Hobart International from Sunday as the clock ticks down to the Open.
“It’s my first time here and it feels pretty good,” the 26-year-old told reporters on Saturday in Hobart.
“Before the big one, it’s nice to get something easy like this.”
After the 2015 Open, where Cibulkova was beaten in the quarters by Serena Williams, the Slovakian underwent surgery on her foot leading to five months on the sidelines for recovery.
“I’m here and achilles is healed so that’s the most important thing,” she said.
“All December, I was practising in Florida really hard and achilles is healed so it is something that can give me an advantage because I had a problem with it for already two years.”
While Cibulkova has returned to full fitness, an injury cloud hangs over some of the top seeds in women’s tennis.
“I was really surprised in Brisbane what happened with the draw, when the top seeds they start to withdraw from the tournament,” she said.
“The beginning of the year is usually always really tough, everybody’s fresh and everybody wants to play – not like in Brisbane.”
In the opening round in Hobart, Cibulkova will take on Briton and world No.48 Johanna Konta.
“She’s a really tough player, I’ve never played her before,” Cibulkova said.
“It will be another tough first round.”
Tournament top seed Sloane Stephens – fresh from her Auckland Classic triumph – faces Japan’s Misaki Doi in a clash expected on Monday.
Italian second seed Camila Giorgi takes on Zarina Diyas in the highlight of Sunday’s first day of competition.
Australian wildcard entry Maddison Inglis, 17, opens proceedings on day one when she meets Russian world No.61 Margarita Gasparyan. In coming days defending champion Heather Watson will play Brazil’s Teliana Pereira.
But all eyes are set to focus on former world No.5 Eugenie Bouchard who is making her comeback from injury.
The Canadian will take on veteran American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the first round.