Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova announced her retirement earlier today. Although she may not be remembered as one of the brightest stars of her generation, Cibulkova was an immensely gifted player. Despite her diminutive stature, Cibulkova stood just 5’3” tall, she carved out an impressive career in an era dominated by taller and more powerfully equipped opponents such as the Williams sisters, Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova.
It was perhaps ironic then that she should have fallen short in the biggest match of her career, the 2014 Australian Open final, against an opponent of similarly small stature in Li Na. But that magical run at Melbourne Park, which saw her beat Sharapova, Simona Halep and Agnieszka Radwanska en route to the final, was far from her only success on the sport’s biggest stages. Cibulkova also reached the semifinals at the French Open in 2009 as well as two quarterfinals at Wimbledon and one at the US Open.
The highlight of her career, however, was surely her triumph at the WTA Finals in 2016, which made her just the fourth player after Serena Williams, Sharapova and Kvitova, to win the tournament on debut. Despite losing two of her round robin matches, she snuck into the semifinals. There she took full advantage of her good fortune, battling past Svetlana Kuznetsova in three sets in the last four before avenging her group-stage defeat at the hands of world #1 Angelique Kerber with a 6-3 6-4 win in the final.
Unfortunately for Cibulkova, she was not able to back that success up in the later years of her career. Despite reaching a career-high ranking of world #4 early in 2017, she ended that season outside the top 20. She did not return. Instead, 2018 saw her struggles continue, with back-to-back wins on tour becoming increasingly rare for the Slovakian. In 2019, appearances on court were few and far between, with her last match having come at the French Open in May, where she lost in the first round to Aryna Sabalenka.
But she unquestionably deserves great credit for the manner in which she played the sport. Cibulkova was ever a fierce competitor, but she had real quality as well as a fiery demeanour. Her ability to time the ball, particularly off the forehand, was matched by few of her rivals, and her willingness to play on the front foot saw her pick up five wins over world #1’s, the most recent of which came just over a year ago in Wuhan against Simona Halep. Thus whilst Cibulkova’s career may now be over, she can depart safe in the knowledge that her achievements will not soon be forgotten.
Embed from Getty Images