ACAPULCO, Mexico - No.2 seed Sloane Stephens needed a final set tie-break against unseeded former Australian Open finalist and 2014 Abierto Mexicano Telcel champion Dominika Cibulkova, but the American finally got the job done against the Slovak, winning, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(5).
"I got a little bit better today because of her, and I wouldn't want to have this memory with anyone else," Stephens said of Cibulkova during the trophy ceremony.
Stephens led Cibulkova by a set and a break before the 26-year-old, who won their previous encounter at last year's Rogers Cup, roared back to level the match at a set apiece. In what became the longest final thus far in 2016, the two fought through several long games in the final set before heading to a tie-break. Racing out to a 5-2 lead, Stephens held three match points, converting her third on a Cibulkova forehand error.
"We had a great week and a great start to the year, and I'm looking forward to keeping it going.
"I don't think I've ever played in front of a crowd quite like this. Thank you for letting me experience this in Acapulco because it's something I'll remember forever."
"This is one of my favorite tournaments," Cibulkova said in her runner-up speech. "It feels like home because of the people who work here and all the fans and sponsors. I'm a little disappointed with the result today, but that's tennis. I hope to be back here next year and maybe get the trophy again.:
Having started the year with a title at the ASB Classic - where she beat former No.1 Caroline Wozniacki en route - Stephens now has three WTA titles and, most impressively, remains undefeated in finals (winning her first title last year at the Citi Open).