STANFORD (CBS/AP) — Dominika Cibulkova hopes her latest WTA Tour final goes better than her last.
Cibulkova coasted past Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-0 on Saturday in the Bank of the West Classic to advance to her second tournament final this year.
The Slovak has two career singles titles and last appeared in a final in January in Sydney, where she lost 6-0, 6-0 to Agnezia Radwanska. It was the first whitewash in a final since 2006 and the first in Cibulkova’s career.
“Tennis is a lot about mentally,” Cibulkova said. “If you will see that match, you will not believe it can be like that because I was putting pressure all the time. All the first six or seven games of that match I had game point or break point, and I just couldn’t make it. It was like something really bad was happening. I was down 6-0, 3-0 and I was only thinking about one thing — just to make one game, and it didn’t happen. It was really bad.”
Cibulkova could have a chance for a double-dose of redemption Sunday. The top-seeded Radwanska, ranked No. 4 in the world, was scheduled to face American Jamie Hampton in the night semifinal and possibly set up a final’s rematch — albeit thousands of miles away from Australia.
Cibulkova’s game has seemed to come a long way the past seven months.
In the semifinals, Cibulkova controlled the pace and played patient and near-perfect tennis against an opponent who folded fast. The third-seeded Cibulkova saved all six break points in the first set and often stayed back on the baseline waiting for Cirstea to make mistakes.
The approach helped Cibulkova go ahead 5-3 in the first set and sweep the second set to cruise into the final on the sun-splashed Stanford campus. Cibulkova has played the event the past six years and had never advanced past the semifinals, even losing to Cirstea in the quarterfinals a year ago.
This time, her penetrating strokes had Cirstea constantly on the move. The hard-hitting Cibulkova forced her to net a forehand, then hit a backhand wide for a break at 4-3 before holding off five breaks alone in her next service game to take command.
With one defeat avenged, Cibulkova now has a chance for another in consecutive days.
Cibulkova, No. 25 in the world rankings, won in Carlsbad last year and in Moscow in 2011 for her only WTA titles. But the loss in Sydney had her questioning herself for weeks.
“It really affected my game for a few tournaments after,” she said. “It was a pretty bad experience. When I came to the Australian Open, the first match I was just thinking, `OK, you have to make a game now because it’s really important. It wasn’t easy. It kept coming back to me a few tournaments, but I think it’s over.”
While some players might’ve shied away from the experience, Cibulkova decided to face it firsthand. She saw the replay of the match — “just the first set,” she said — and saw her confidence evaporate with every stroke.
Asked why she would put herself through watching such a devastating defeat, she replied, “I have to learn from it.”
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