STANFORD, CA, USA - Dominika Cibulkova defied the odds in the final of the Bank Of The West Classic on Sunday, not just hitting her way out of a seemingly insurmountable third set deficit to win the title, but also beating Agnieszka Radwanska for the very first time in their five career meetings.
Going into the final, Cibulkova seemed up against it - she had never beaten Radwanska in their four previous meetings, including a devastating 60 60 loss in their most recent meeting in the Sydney final earlier this year, a loss that she has admitted stayed with her through several tournaments.
And although Cibulkova got some games on the board right away, Radwanska seemed in total control again - she won the first set on the strength of two breaks, 6-3, and after building a 3-2 lead in the second set she crept closer to a third break, getting to 30-all on Cibulkova's serve in that game.
But that's when Cibulkova found the range on her huge forehand - she began taking them even earlier and pounding them side to side, winning four of the next five games to take the second set, 6-3.
Radwanska took advantage of a somewhat erratic Cibulkova early in the third set, going up 4-2, 40-15, seemingly on her way to victory, but the No.3-seeded Slovak caught fire one last time, reeling off four games in a row to put the No.1-seeded Radwanska away after two and a half hours, 36 64 64.
"The big difference between Sydney and today was I made the first game - after I won that, I looked at my coach and thought, 'Here we go, I'm here, it's going to be good today,'" Cibulkova said. "It's a big deal for me today. I had never beaten Aga before. She's a really tough competitor and I had to earn every point myself. It was tough mentally and physically out there, so I'm really happy I won."
"I didn't play my best tennis at all today," Radwanska said. "I think everything was a problem for me. I couldn't feel the ball well - actually I couldn't feel the ball the whole tournament. And she was much better on the court, hitting so hard and so cleanly. She was really playing so well out there.
"I kept fighting, but I didn't use my chances when I was 4-2 up in the third, and I paid my price."
The last game wasn't too straightforward - Cibulkova missed her first three match points with errors off the forehand, then another one after Radwanska ended a lengthy rally with a brave drop volley winner. But a huge crosscourt backhand winner ended up giving Cibulkova the Premier-level crown.
"On the first match point I think I was a little bit too nervous," Cibulkova said. "I went for it, but when I saw my forehand go into the fence, I thought, 'This is not good.' But every match point was getting better and better. I knew she wouldn't give it to me - I knew I just really had to go for it."
Cibulkova came away with the third WTA title of her career, all of them coming at the Premier level, following previous triumphs at Moscow in 2011 and Carlsbad in 2012. She is now 3-5 in WTA finals.
The doubles title went to No.1 seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, who beat No.2 seeds Julia Goerges and Darija Jurak in the final, 62 76(4). They won their seventh WTA doubles title together, having won one in 2009 (Estoril), one in 2011 (Québec City) and four in 2012 (Carlsbad, Seoul, Tokyo [Pan Pacific] and Osaka); Kops-Jones now has nine WTA doubles titles, Spears 11.