Cibulkova Wins Maiden WTA Title In Moscow
Published October 23, 2011 12:00
MOSCOW, Russia - With a slightly lucky break late in the second set and a forehand that just wouldn't miss, Dominika Cibulkova fought her way to her very first WTA title at the Kremlin Cup on Sunday afternoon, surviving the all-court attack of Kaia Kanepi in a two-hour, 36-minute marathon, 36 76(1) 75.
Though she was the favorite on paper - she was seeded No.8, her opponent unseeded - Cibulkova knew she would have a fight on her hands from Kanepi, who had won both of their previous meetings and had already taken out two seeds earlier in the week, Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Kanepi came out firing early on, getting the only break of the opening set in the fourth game and staying on serve with Cibulkova throughout the entire second set. It was at 5-all where Kanepi had her big opportunity to break the match open - holding a break point, she barely missed an overhead. After two more holds the Estonian lost seven points in a row to let go of the set in a tie-break.
"I wasn't thinking about break point or anything, I was just trying to get the ball back," Cibulkova said of Kanepi's missed overhead. "It was good for me she missed that shot. She was hitting high balls to my backhand to get me out of my rhythm and I was playing too defensive in the beginning, but later in the second set I started to really go for my forehand again. I had nothing to lose."
The third set stayed on serve through 3-all; five breaks in a row followed, but it was Cibulkova who managed to get her serve steady again at 6-5, building 40-15 then blasting a crosscourt forehand that drew one last Kanepi error.
First-time WTA champion Cibulkova threw her racquet and fell to the ground.
Coming into the tournament, Cibulkova was one of only two Top 20 players without a WTA title to her name - she was 0-3 in her first three WTA finals. But by overcoming some of her toughest rivals - she had losing head-to-head records against each of her last three opponents, Vera Zvonareva, Elena Vesnina and Kanepi - she changed all that. Peng Shuai is now the only Top 20 player without a WTA title under her belt (she is 0-4 in WTA finals).
"This is the best feeling I've ever had. It's the best day for me," Cibulkova said. "I've been waiting for my first WTA title for so long. It's also special because I had so many tough moments, against Zvonareva in the quarterfinals and against Kaia today. It didn't come easily. I really had to fight for my first title."
Kanepi fell to 1-3 in WTA finals, though the big-hitting Estonian could take a very big positive away from Moscow: it was her first Premier-level final.
"When you have a long rally then suddenly have an easy ball in front of you, you can sometimes get a bit tight. I think that's what happened on the overhead," Kanepi said. "Obviously I was disappointed about the loss but after sitting down for a few minutes and watching the ceremony and everything, I felt pretty positive about this week. I'm looking forward to what's to come for me."
The doubles final was Saturday, with Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova winning their fourth WTA doubles title together (following Slams at Wimbledon and the US Open last year and another Premier title in Cincy this year).