Fears over whether the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global could match the absorbing qualification battle that preceded it were allayed on the opening night, when World No.1 Angelique Kerber battled back to pip debutante Dominika Cibulkova.
And as the round-robin stage progressed there was no let-up. Svetlana Kuznetsova, in particular, relished the stage, marking her return to the season-ending showpiece by winning three-set thrillers against first defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska then Karolina Pliskova.
In the end, it was Radwanska that joined the Russian in the semifinals, after defusing Pliskova in her final match; while in the other group, the undefeated Kerber was accompanied by Cibulkova, who snuck through ahead of Simona Halep and Madison Keys, despite posting a solitary round-robin win.
Cibulkova Grabs Her Opportunity
The Slovak grabbed her opportunity with both hands, producing a grandstand finish to see off Kuznetsova in a semifinal classic. Having dropped the opening set in the blink of an eye, Cibulkova appeared to haul herself back into the contest by sheer force of will, rallying from 4-2 down in the final set to complete a memorable comeback.
There were no such fireworks in the second semifinal, as Kerber systematically broke down Radwanska in a surprisingly one-sided encounter to secure a rematch with Cibulkova.
One week on from their round-robin meeting, Cibulkova gained revenge in spectacular fashion. Dominating from the outset, the underdog bossed the baseline exchanges to romp through the first set. And much to the surprise of most inside the area there was no let-up in the second, as she continued to attack anything remotely short with gusto.
At 3-3, the pressure paid off, the German firing wide to slip a break behind. The only wobble came as Cibulkova closed in on the biggest title of her career. Three match points came and went before Lady Luck intervened, the ball clipping the tape and dropping dead onto Kerber's side.
"I have no words, coming here for the first time, the biggest tournament of my life. I still don't know how I won, I put the ball over the net and it went in; it's the happiest moment of my life," Cibulkova said.