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Cibulkova Ends Kuznetsova Run To Reach Singapore Final

Cibulkova Ends Kuznetsova Run To Reach Singapore Final

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

SINGAPORE – Dominika Cibulkova staged a thrilling fightback to defeat Svetlana Kuznetsova and take her place in the final of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.

Watch interviews and highlights from Singapore on the WTA Facebook page!

In a week chock-full of dramatic moments, Cibulkova’s grandstand finish on Saturday evening will take some beating, as she hauled herself back from the brink to triumph, 1-6, 7-6(2), 6-4.

“At the end I was lying on the court and now I’m so excited. It’s my first time here playing Finals and for me it’s one of my dreams come true – it’s just incredible,” Cibulkova told Andrew Krasny during her on-court interview.

“I just played my tennis. First set, she was really, really aggressive. I knew I had to change things because I needed to play my aggressive tennis. In the end I won because I was the more positive.”

Dominika Cibulkova

Having been blown away in the first set, Cibulkova displayed typical resolve to haul herself back into the contest. As the Russian’s level dipped slightly, Cibulkova upped the intensity, earning her first break when Kuznetsova sent a routine volley long. While Cibulkova was unable to hang onto the advantage, the momentum had swung.

The set was decided on a tie-break, Cibulkova taking charge in a series of brutal rallies. A thumping drive volley brought up set point, which she converted by guiding a backhand past her forlorn opponent.

Kuznetsova was not done, though, and when she produced a sublime lob to move 4-2 ahead in the third set the match appeared hers for the taking. Somehow Cibulkova roused herself for one final push, reeling off the next three games amidst a stream of winners.

Three more brought her to match point. Kuznetsova looked to have escaped when she dragged her opponent to the outer limits of the arena, only to be bamboozled when the reply flicked off the tape and beyond her reach.

Cibulkova, who is making her debut at the year-end Finals and only won one of her three round-robin matches, will now face World No.1 Angelique Kerber or defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska for the title.

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Insider Reacts: Three Things From Cibulkova's Scintillating Win Over Kuznetsova

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

SINGAPORE – Down a set in her first-ever BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global semifinal, Dominika Cibulkova shifted into turbo to take out No.8 seed and story of the tournament, Svetlana Kuznetsova, 1-6, 7-6(2), 6-4. The win is guaranteed to take her at least up to a career-high ranking of No.6.

Read how the match unfolded in the WTA Insider Live Blog.

Cibulkova hit through the occasion, and the pressure.

Familiar to big stages, the Slovak once struggled to maintain an aggressive mindset at the finish line of high-stakes encounters; it was just six months ago that she narrowly lost back-to-back three-setters to Agnieszka Radwanska and Garbiñe Muguruza in Indian Wells and Miami.

But Cibulkova’s mental evolution has been on full display in Singapore, and the No.7 seed resolved to play positive tennis, win or lose.

“I ended the second set really, really well,” she said after the match. “I was hitting full power and everything and I was going for it. I knew there is no other way than to go for it. I managed to put the balls in.”

Winning the last five matches against Kuznetsova made her a heavy favorite, especially considering the amount of matches the Russian had to play just to get to Singapore, let alone the semifinals. But Kuznetsova came roaring out of the gate, hitting nine winners to take the first set in 33 minutes.

“She was putting the pressure after my serve, because my percentage was really low and she was putting so much pressure from the second serve return.

“I knew I had to start serving better, I had to be the one being more aggressive on the court. I had to play my game, to be in on my forehand and to go for my shots.”

Cibulkova had caught the always-aggressive Kuznetsova’s winner total of 27 by match’s end, all the while keeping her unforced error count lower than the No.8 seed (31 to 35). Through a high-quality match, she took control when it mattered most.

“Today I managed to stay in the match, even [when] she was playing really, really good and she was overplaying me in the first set.”

– Kuznetsova let distractions get the best of her.

The Russian made it through two of the tensest weeks in her career to find herself in her first semifinal in Singapore. From a break down in the third, she won four straight games and appeared on course to replicate the form that took her through the first set.

But something wasn’t right. She spoke with umpire Kader Nouni during the changeover after breaking Cibulkova’s serve in the fifth game; Nouni assured her the issue – whatever it was – wasn’t falling afoul of the rules. She proceeded to lose the final four games of the match. 

“Overall I was frustrated for other thing which I thought was a little bit unprofessional,” she said afterwards.

A red-eyed Kuznetsova came to press unwilling to specify the source of her distraction, but seemed to imply she took exception to noises coming from Cibulkova’s camp.

“She was OK,” she said when asked whether player or team caused any problems.

Ultimately, the two-time Grand Slam champion refused to blame the moment for the loss, chalking defeat up to tactical errors in the final stages of the match.

“Dominika played really good. She was really aggressive. I was short on some shots, and in the end I think she just was aggressive, and I was not.”

Still, it was a revelatory season for Sveta, who plans a well-deserved vacation after a hectic schedule through the Asian Swing.

“I’m just thinking about vacation right now and just letting [today’s loss] go. I have to go to bed and sleep, not to think about the matches, not to be nervous all the time. For the last five weeks, it was every single day I was thinking about the next day to play another match.

“So I’m dreaming of being able to relax, relax the nerves, and then I just want to have a good pre-season, and next year just to be consistent. I think I [have] got lots of confidence after finishing the year like this. I think I can do a lot of the things.”

Cibulkova believes the best is yet to come.

Cibulkova hails from a generation that includes Grand Slam champions and former No.1s like Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka, and Caroline Wozniacki. But it’s taken longer for the Slovakian dynamo to meet the expectations set by her cohort, something she blames on a lack of self-belief.

“I never saw myself as that good, or maybe not as a consistent player. He made me believe it.  He had examples and I started to believe in myself much more.”

Saturday’s win puts her up to a career-high of No.6, but Cibulkova could finish the week inside the Top 5 – a ranking threshold that doesn’t faze the 27-year-old.

“Right now if I’m going to be deeper than Top 10, I’ll really believe I belong there. That’s most important thing: you have to be convinced that you belong there. Then it works.”

She’ll certainly hope it works in Sunday’s final against Angelique Kerber, a match that comes just shy of three years from her first major final at the Australian Open.

“That time I was new, and playing your first Grand Slam final was really tough. I’m happy I have this experience; for me to go on the finals in Australia, I was trying to do my best but I wasn’t convinced I could really win.

“With this experience now I’m a different player. Tomorrow I will go there and just want to win.”

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