Playing in her first-ever Women's Tennis Association season-finale, seventh seed Dominika Cibulkova defeated World No. 1 Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-4 to win the title, in Singapore on Sunday. She became the first Slovakian player to win the title and following the update to the WTA rankings, will finish off the year in a career-high fifth place.
Both finalists incidentally had been placed in the Red Group and the opening match of the tournament had seen the two square off. In what had been a lengthy battle then, Kerber had come through 7-6, 2-6, 6-3. Kerber went on to win all her round robin matches and advanced to the semi-finals as the group leader. Cibulkova, on the other hand, needed Kerber to win in straight sets in her final round robin match against Madison Keys to reach the semi-finals.
In the semi-final, Cibulkova defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova, who had a heady tale of her own in making it to the finals.
Prior to the start of the tournament, a lot had been spoken about Cilbukova’s height vis-à-vis the other qualifiers. One of the shortest players on the tour at 5 feet 3 inches, Cibulkova’s aggressive and confident performance in the final, throughout the tournament for that matter, belied pre-conceived ideas about whether she would be able to do well against her taller opponents.
After her win, Cibulkova made a reference to these as she stated, “I always had my coach to motivate me, to put the bigger goals for me. I think that was something I was dealing with. I never saw myself as such a great player, consistent player, somebody who could be top-5. Right now, I don’t doubt myself anymore.”
Russians rule in doubles
A similarly enthralling final was played out in the doubles field as the fourth seed Russian pair of Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova defeated third seeded American-Czech pair of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova 7-6, 6-3 to hoist the title.
With the ouster of defending champions Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis in the semi-finals, by the Russian team, Mattek-Sands had the opportunity to pip the Indian for the year-end numero uno spot. It also went in the Czech-American team’s favour that they had been undefeated in their last 18 matches, going back to the US Open.
Vesnina and Makarova, gold medallists at the Rio Olympics this year, also became the first Russian team since Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova to win the WTA finals’ title. Kirilenko and Petrova had won the 2012 edition of the tournament, when it was held in Istanbul.