Cibulkova beats Ker­ber to win WTA Fi­nals

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Do­minika Cibulkova pulled off a stun­ning up­set over An­gelique Ker­ber to win the WTA Fi­nals yes­ter­day, beat­ing the newly crowned world num­ber one in a dra­matic 6-3, 6-4 fi­nal in Sin­ga­pore.

Run­ner-up at the 2014 Aus­tralian Open, Slo­vakia’s Cibulkova turned the ta­bles on Ger­many’s Ker­ber a week af­ter los­ing to her in the round-robin stage to cap­ture the big­gest ti­tle of her ca­reer, seal­ing it with a for­tu­itous net cord af­ter ner­vously blow­ing her first three match points. “This is a big mo­ment for me. It’s the big­gest mo­ment in my ca­reer,” Cibulkova said at the pre­sen­ta­tion.

“It’s hard to de­scribe in words (how I feel). I have to con­grat­u­late An­gelique Ker­ber, you are an in­spi­ra­tion for me to play hard this year. With hard work, ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble.”

Ker­ber went into the fi­nal as the over­whelm­ing favourite to win af­ter tak­ing this year’s Aus­tralian Open and US Open ti­tles but the 28-year-old was pow­er­less to stop her diminu­tive op­po­nent, whose shock win capped an in­spired re­turn to the game’s elite that saw her named as this sea­son’s WTA Come­back Player of the Year.

Ranked as low as 66th in the world in Fe­bru­ary af­ter strug­gling with in­juries in 2015, Cibulkova only just snuck into the WTA Fi­nals, re­stricted to the world’s top eight play­ers, when she won this month’s Linz Open in Aus­tria. She was fac­ing an early exit when she lost her first two round-robin matches in Sin­ga­pore but sud­denly turned things around, and won her last one.

She only qual­i­fied for the semi-fi­nals on a count­back when Ker­ber did her a huge favour by beat­ing Madi­son Keys in straight sets and fought back from a set down and a ser­vice break in the de­cider to win a nail­bit­ing semi against Svet­lana Kuznetsova. For her win over Ker­ber, Cibulkova was pre­sented with the Bil­lie Jean King tro­phy and a cheque for $2.05 mil­lion, the big­gest pay­day of her life, while the Ger­man was left won­der­ing what went wrong. “I’ve had an amaz­ing year. I gave ev­ery­thing on court to­day,” Ker­ber said.

“We’ve had an amaz­ing year. For me it’s an hon­our to play on the big­gest stage in front of you all, the whole world.” Ooz­ing with self­be­lief af­ter mak­ing the quan­tum leap from an­other promis­ing player to the wo­man who dis­lodged Ser­ena Wil­liams at the top of the world rank­ings, Ker­ber had done ev­ery­thing right this week, giv­ing up just set one in the four matches she played en route to the fi­nal.

The left-han­der had won each of her last five matches with Cibulkova, but did not bank on her play­ing the match of her life, hit­ting win­ners from ev­ery part of the court, elic­it­ing huge roars and gasps from the crowd.

There were some anx­ious mo­ments at the end for Cibulkova. She squan­dered three golden op­por­tu­ni­ties as her nerves started to fray,

but re­gained her com­po­sure and was re­warded for her ag­gres­sive ap­proach with a slice of luck, hit­ting a fe­ro­cious fore­hand that clipped the tape and landed on the other side of the net just as she fell to the court in dis­be­lief at her achieve­ment. “I’m here for the first time, win­ning the big­gest ti­tle of my life,” Cibulkova said. “I was men­tally re­ally strong. I knew I played well in the first two matches, just re­ally un­lucky. In this match, you see, I was lucky.” Rus­sia’s Olympic gold medal­lists Eka­te­rina Makarova and Elena Ves­nina won the dou­bles fi­nal, beat­ing US Open win­ners Bethanie Mat­tek-Sands and Lu­cie Sa­farova 7-5 (7-5) 6-3. —AFP

SIN­GA­PORE: Do­minika Cibulkova of Slo­vakia hugs her tro­phy as she poses for pho­tog­ra­phers af­ter beat­ing An­gelique Ker­ber of Ger­many in their women’s sin­gles fi­nal match at the WTA ten­nis tour­na­ment in Sin­ga­pore, yes­ter­day. — AP

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