After defeats to the top seed Angelique Kerber and the sixth seed Madison Keys in her first couple of group assignments, WTA Finals debutante Dominika Cibulkova starred at an elimination. Only a straight-sets win against the 2014 runner-up Simona Halep could save her the blushes of such an early exit.
With her back against the wall, the seventh-seeded Cibulkova came up with exactly that, registering a 6-3, 7-6(5) victory over the Romanian to keep the door still open for progressing into the semi-finals.
She got through to the knock-out stage and relied on pure heart and guts to get her hands on the biggest title of her life on Sunday as she inflicted a shock 6-3, 6-4 win over Kerber. The Slovak’s win was reminiscent of her sizzling run to the Australian Open in 2014 where she summoned all her courage to beat four top-20 players before losing to Li Na in the summit clash.
But there was no letdown this time. She saved her absolute best for the last, firing 28 winners against just 14 unforced errors. Her first serves were on point and she made 83% of them.
Relentless and unforgiving, she simply blazed through the 1 hour 16 minute contest, breaking Kerber three times by making use of her brilliant footwork and brutal baseline play. The only time where the fearless Cibulkova’s nerves were evident, was when she served for the match at 5-4 in the second set.
The top seed saved three match points as both women exhibited some exceptional defence but in the end, the Slovak emerged as the winner when her forehand hit the tape and rolled over to Kerber’s side of the court.
With this, she is set to rise to a career-best No. 5 in the new rankings on Monday.
This was the diminutive Slovak’s fourth title win of her most consistent season and her eighth career triumph overall. She earlier won in Katowice, Eastbourne and Linz, besides reaching the final in Acapulco, Madrid and Wuhan.
Cibulkova’s win was a fitting end to a season which began with an unpredictable outcome at the Australian Open when Angelique Kerber played her life’s best match to topple Serena Williams for her maiden Grand Slam title.
Sania Mirza finishes as Year-End No. 1 in doubles
Earlier in the doubles final, the Olympic champions Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina snapped the 18-match winning streak of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova, 7-6(5), 6-3 for their maiden title at this prestigious event. The American-Czech combine was the most in-form team in the last two months and had won three titles in a row at the US Open, Wuhan and Beijing.
Mattek-Sands’ loss also meant that Sania Mirza finished as the Year-End No. 1 doubles player for the second year in a row.