"They underestimated me...I think I was always brave with my height...I really wanted to play tennis", Dominika Cibulkova told reporters at the 2016 WTA Finals in Singapore as she was preparing to get her trophy.
She had thought back to the times as a young kid that she was told she wasn't big enough to reign supreme in anything. Point in fact is that she has won 8 WTA singles and 1 doubles title. A few years ago she had a blockbuster season by winning 4 titles in 2016, defeating many of the top players and capturing the WTA Finals at Singapore from top ranked no.
1 at the time Angelique Kerber; it probably was one of her biggest accomplishments. She had a career-high ranking then of no. 5. Cibulkova has had her time of coming back from injuries as in the year before all of the titles in 2015.
She'd played the Diamond Games in Belgium and afterwards had sustained an achilles tendon injury which she had to have surgery and didn't know if a complete recovery would ever happen. But last year 2017 wasn't a very good one for Cibulkova, as the tournaments which she was the defending champ, she wasn't able to defend at all.
The Katowice Open was discontinued after its premiere run in 2016. The Aegon event in Eastbourne was won by Karolina Pliskova and the Generali Ladies Linz in Austria seen Czech Barbora Strycova as the champ since Cibulkoba had withdrawn due to a wrist injury.
She had said that "...It is particularly disappointing as it is one of my favorite tournaments to play...and so close to my hometown..." The 2017 WTA Finals champ in Singapore was Caroline Wozniacki with the Slovakian not able to defend that either.
As Cibulkova's rankings started to slip from not going deep enough into events or not winning titles, so did other rising stars and touring pros begin to improve their game continuing to be a threat to other players including Cibulkova.
Jelena Ostapenko winning the French Open, Karolina Pliskova having been the new no. 1, now Simona Halep has taken her number one spot. Carolina Garcia skipped doubles and concentrated on her singles game, winning at the Asian Swing has put Cibulkova at odds with staying healthy and elevating her game to defeat improving players and newcomers.
This 2018 season has been difficult for the Slovakian getting pass the 2nd round of any tournament she's entered. The Hungarian Open was the only event she made through to the final to lose to Alison Van Uytvanck, a player back from wrist surgery and ranked no.
50. Cibulkova had continued to serve well but tactics and selected strategies to win the point were missing in many of her games. Before their match Van Uytvanck mentioned to wtatennis.com media that "...I will have to serve well.
I have to be aggressive and just give everything I have and we will see..." she'd said concerning her upcoming final with Cibulkova. But it wasn't the match for Cibulkova to win and she was runner-up at the Hungarian event.
Will this be the year for Dominika Cibulkova to go deep in tournaments and win her 9th career title? Now ranked in the 30s, she has to bring her 'A' game to every match since competition has stepped up with players like Danielle Collins coming out of obscurity and has already won over Irina-Camelia Begu, CoCo Vandeweghe, Madison Keys and has upset her idol Venus Williams.
The younger players are still excelling as French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko, Fanny Stoller, the 19-year-old who defeated Johanna Konta and there's still the top ranked Simona Halep, Elina Stivolina, Caroline Wozniacki and more to try to get pass.
As Cibulkova has said a few years ago "They underestimated me..." speaking about her family, but it could apply to her comrades. Dominika Cibulkova has 8 titles to her name and can also be a threat but getting her ranking up and being consistent may be the strongest goals she'll have to face in helping her win that next 9th title and moving up and onward.