by Kevin Craig
Dominika Cibulkova won what was arguably the match of the tournament on Monday at Wimbledon as she took down the No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-3, 5-7, 9-7.
“I’m just really happy right now with my tennis and with my private life…you can see it on the court,” said Cibulkova, who has reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the second time in her career and is planning to get married on the same day as the women’s singles final.
The Slovakian, seeded 19th at Wimbledon, came into the event in good form as she had won 22 of her last 25 matches, including a win on grass at Eastbourne the week before Wimbledon began.
Cibulkova, who has been ranked as high as No. 10 in the world, was able to feed off that good form and got off to an impressive start with her aggressive style of play and it looked like she was up to the task of playing the No. 3 player in the world, losing just one point in each of her first two service games before breaking Radwanska for a 3-1 lead. The Slovakian felt no pressure in closing out the first set after earning the break as she wasn’t taken to deuce in any of her service games and managed to win 14 points on return throughout.
The second set looked like it would be a replay of the first as Cibulkova, who hit 56 winners in the match, pressured Radwanska’s serve early, allowing her to earn a break for a 2-1 lead. The lead was short lived though as the Pole broke right back in the next game to get on serve again before the two exchanged breaks twice more in the latter stages of the set, including four breaks in a row from the 3-3 game to the 5-4 game.
The last of those four consecutive breaks came when Cibulkova served for the match the first time, allowing Radwanska to get back on serve and turn the tables. After a hold to grab a 6-5 lead, the 2012 Wimbledon finalist was able to break again in the 12th game, stealing the second set and forcing a decider.
“After I didn’t make the first match point the momentum changed and then she was up…today she was playing really, really good,” said Cibulkova.
The feisty spirit of Cibulkova kept her going in the third set despite the disappointment of failing to convert that match point opportunity at 5-4 in the second set. After fighting off a break point in her first service game of the third, the Slovakian was the one in charge for the majority of the decider.
An exchange of breaks came in the middle of the set before Cibulkova earned another break for a 7-6 lead and had the opportunity to close out the match again. It was not meant to be this time either, though, as Radwanksa was able to break back again and prolong the match.
To Cibulkova’s pleasure, the match was only prolonged two more games as she broke for the seventh time, allowing her to serve for the match again. The third time was the charm for Cibulkova as she finally closed out the match with a forehand winner before falling to the ground in joy.
“It was just…so tough to go through. Especially when you have an opponent that doesn’t give you any free gifts, you just know that you have to earn every single point. It takes so much energy. It’s even tougher mentally, so today was just an amazing match,” said Cibulkova, the 2014 Australian Open finalist. “I would say it was the toughest match in my career so far, physically and also mentally…Against Aga today I felt like I have to put six, seven, eight winners to earn the point.”
Cibulkova’s run at this year’s Wimbledon has already given her enough to be happy about as she has reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 2011, but she also has her wedding to look forward to once the tournament ends. The 27-year old will be marrying long-time significant other Miso Navara on a date that will also be occupied by the women’s singles final.
The date was chosen “because I never saw myself as such a great grass court player,” said Cibulkova, who admitted that the date would change if she continued her run in London.
“We can postpone it…If we would really have to postpone it, then it will be like dream come true because nothing better could happen to me in my tennis career,” said Cibulkova.
Her next opponent will be the 29-year old from Russia, Elena Vesnina, who has made her first major quarterfinal.