WTA Finals 2016

Tennis: 'Pocket Rocket' Dominika Cibulkova blasts off to victory in WTA finals

Overcome by emotion, Dominika Cibulkova collapses on the court after her unexpected but decisive 6-3, 6-4 victory against Angelique Kerber in the WTA Finals at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday.
Overcome by emotion, Dominika Cibulkova collapses on the court after her unexpected but decisive 6-3, 6-4 victory against Angelique Kerber in the WTA Finals at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Cibulkova triumphs against world No. 1 Kerber, staying calm despite tense finish

Defying the concept of perpetual motion, those feet moved non-stop all week. They scurried all over the tennis court, they bounced between points. And even when Dominika Cibulkova - nicknamed "Pocket Rocket" - sat during changeovers, those feet, encased in fluorescent yellow and pink shoes, continued to tap rhythmically against the court surface.

Perpetual motion, you see.

But finally, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium last night, the flash of yellow and pink finally stopped, albeit momentarily. Cibulkova lay on the ground, sobbing in celebration after winning the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global on her first attempt.

Once told she was "too small to play tennis", the shortest contender in the singles field here (1.61m) overpowered world No. 1 Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-4 to win the biggest title of her career so far.

Said Cibulkova: "I think I put out all my emotions of joy after the match point."

 
  • STATS OF THE DAY

  • 4

    Titles won by Dominika Cibulkova this year, the most among the eight singles players in the WTA Finals.

    5

    A new career-high world ranking for Cibulkova.

    1 in 16

    The probability of Cibulkova going through to the semi-finals after two round-robin matches.

    83

    Cibulkova's percentage of first serves, the highest of all players at the Finals.

Despite losing to the German in a tight three-set round-robin match here on Oct 23, Cibulkova said the loss had given her confidence that she could beat Kerber.

"My game is good enough to beat the world No. 1, and I went into the final with these thoughts, and I was feeling it from the first point until the last point," she added.

The Slovak dominated the match from the start, blasting 14 winners - twice the number that Kerber hit - en route to winning the first set.

Solid retrieving from the German kept her in the second, until Cibulkova pulled ahead with a break to lead 4-3.

Big serving and big hitting gave Cibulkova two match points, but the world No. 8 needed two more before a lucky netcord sealed the win.

"I stayed calm and I knew I have to stay focused and just to forget (the missed match points) really quickly, to focus on the serve and what I want to do next," said Cibulkova, who will rise to a career-high world ranking of No. 5 following yesterday's win.

"On her break points I just hit unbelievable winners from the forehand. I got a little lucky on the (last) match point, but you get lucky when you deserve to get lucky."

The crowd certainly agreed with Cibulkova's assessment, getting to their feet in a standing ovation for the pint-sized dynamo.

Kerber, who was handed her first defeat of the US$7 million (S$9.75 million) tournament yesterday, praised her opponent's aggression, despite admitting she was "a little bit disappointed" with the defeat.

But the German, who won two Grand Slam titles this year and clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking, added: "I had a lot of tough matches (this year), and also a lot of great finals and great memories. So of course now I'm ready for the vacation."

Cibulkova is also looking forward to time off the court, where she said her feet will finally stay still.

She said: "I only sit still. I do nothing because I spend so much energy on the court that, off the court, I'm just (switched) off."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2016, with the headline 'Pocket rocket blasts off'. Print Edition | Subscribe