SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - Dominika Cibulkova found herself at a crossroads when she ended her frustrating 2017 campaign with a straight-set loss to Elise Mertens at the China Open in October. After winning the 2016 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global a year earlier and entering last season ranked in the Top 5, Cibulkova finished the season ranked No.26.
"After [I won] Singapore, everything went so quickly," Cibulkova told WTA Insider after her second-round win over Elena Vesnina at the Sydney International. "I had just two weeks off and I felt like right away we were in Australia and it started again. I was just really tired and I didn't really get to enjoy what I achieved.
"I'm not like Federer, he's winning a Grand Slam and it's normal for him. For me, this was very big.
"I didn't enjoy playing last year. I didn't enjoy traveling, I didn't enjoy being on the court. I needed to clear my head to know what I want to do. If I still felt like I don't want to come back to tennis, it wouldn't be good. It was something I had to do because after 2016 everything was just so big, and 2017 I was just really not enjoying."
To clear her head, Cibulkova shut down her season after Beijing and took 10 weeks off, a remarkably long off-season break. Most players can rarely take four weeks off. But for Cibulkova, it wasn't even a choice.
"I had to do it," Cibulkova said, "to realize I still wanted to do it, I still had the energy to fight, to be motivated. I really enjoyed my time off. I was at home with my husband, we had good trips to Prague, to the Maldives, we were traveling. I had the luxury of time. I realized that this, what we had, it will be after tennis. This will be my life. So I don't want to rush it. I still want to play and do something big in tennis.
"I need to be 100% on the court and the practice for my tennis to be good out there. After the eight weeks, when I started to do my fitness, I was pumped again."
Cibulkova delayed the start of her season until Sydney and she has yet to drop a set en route to the quarterfinals, beating No.8 seed Anastasija Sevastova in the opening round before easing past Vesnina.
Cibulkova will face a resurgent Angelique Kerber on Wednesday after the German ousted Venus Williams.