Dominika Cibulkova did what any tennis player looks to do at the start of a match – hit the ball over the net, preferably with more power than it came, and try and hit as close to the lines as possible. The Slovakian did that to great effect in the summit clash of the WTA Finals in Singapore against the world number one, and easy as can be, she ended up winning the biggest title of her career.
With Angelique Kerber expected to ease past her opponent and cap off what has been a fine season for the German, Cibulkova spoiled the predicted party by playing outstanding tennis from point one to win the final 6-3, 6-4 in just an hour and 16 minutes.
"I have no words, coming here for the first time, the biggest tournament of my life," Cibulkova said. "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."
The win was all the more remarkable, because it came against an opponent who had beaten Cibulkova handsomely on the opening day of the WTA Finals.
Indeed, Cibulkova would only win one match in the round robin stage of the tournament, but when it mattered most, she stepped up quite brilliantly, even if there were a couple of heart-in-mouth moments right at the end, when she failed to take any of her first three match points while serving for the title.
"I'd rather win the last three matches here than win the first three. It wasn't easy to go on the court after two losses but I was mentally very strong and I knew I played well in the first two matches, I was just a little bit unlucky. Then at the end I was lucky, Cibulkova said to a net cord on match point that gave her the crown.
While Kerber will be disappointed not to end the season on a high, she will know this has been a year to savour – one where she has won two Grand Slam titles and usurped Serena Williams to the world number one ranking. The next target for Kerber will be defending her Australian Open title.
"I had an amazing year, won two Grand Slams, it was one of the best years of my career," Kerber said during the presentation. "For me it's an honour to play on the big stage, in front of such a great crowd, the whole world and now I am looking forward to next year."
The doubles title went to Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova, after the Russian pair, who beat Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis in the semifinals, got the better of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 in the final.
"It was such a great match," Vesnina said. "It was really a pleasure to play against Bethanie and Lucie and to be honest we really enjoyed playing it. We weren't sure until the very end that we were going to win it. It was a really, really close match."