CARLSBAD, CA, USA - They're good friends and two of the best all-around players on the WTA, but there could only be one winner at the Mercury Insurance Open and it was Dominika Cibulkova, who defeated Marion Bartoli in straight sets in the final of the Premier-level tournament, 61 75.
Playing for the first time since 2008 it was the No.2-seeded Cibulkova who came out stronger, losing the first game but winning six in a row for the opening set. Bartoli built a 4-1 lead in the second set but Cibulkova again went on a roll, winning six of the next seven games to put the top-seeded Frenchwoman away.
"I have to say, this was the first WTA final where I played really well," Cibulkova said. "In the first set everything was going my way. My forehand was working today 100%, and also my serves and returns. So everything was just fine.
"In the second set I was up 1-0 and 40-0 on her serve, and I got a little bit nervous, starting to think about getting closer to the title. She's a great player and was fighting for every ball and went up 4-1, but I realized I was leading in a few of those games, so I knew I could turn it around again. And I just kept going.
"I'm really happy I didn't give up and turned the second set around."
Cibulkova now has two WTA titles to her name, and both of them have come at the Premier level - her first came on the indoor hardcourts of Moscow last fall. The World No.14's win over the World No.10 was her 14th Top 10 win.
"In Moscow I never had a title before, and everybody was talking to me about the title, and it was a little bit too much pressure. The final there was really crazy," Cibulkova said. "When I won the match point there I felt like something maybe happened; today I knew the feeling. You want to really win the tournament."
Cibulkova said before the final if she won the title, she would go down the splash pool's water slide at the La Costa Resort & Spa in her tennis outfit. See above.
Going to three sets in all of her matches leading up to the final could have been somewhat of an inconvenience for Bartoli, who fell to 7-11 in WTA finals.
"The toughest part for me was to play three matches at night and then come to the day session," Bartoli said. "I played well to get the lead in the second set, but from there I started to feel a bit tired and wasn't moving so quickly anymore. And she was playing extremely well, which made me feel uncomfortable too.
"I really fought extremely hard on the court, and being in the final this year obviously means a lot to me before heading to Montréal and Cincinnati."
The doubles title went to No.3 seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, who defeated No.2 seeds Vania King and Nadia Petrova in the final, 62 64. Kops-Jones and Spears were coming off a nail-biting semifinal win the night before against No.1 seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond, saving a match point down 9-8 in the match tie-break en route to a 75 46 1412 victory.
"The win over Liezel and Lisa was huge for us - they're No.1 and everybody's looking to beat them," Spears said of the semifinal upset. "Whenever you can beat the No.1 team in the world it makes you feel pretty good. They're going to represent us at the Olympics next week and I think they'll do really well."
Kops-Jones and Spears have now won three WTA titles together, but this was their biggest one, as their first two came at International-level events. Kops-Jones now has five WTA doubles titles to her name while Spears has seven.