Fiery Cibulkova Downs Pliskova To Win Eastbourne
Elliot Cornish for Tennis Atlantic
Dominika Cibulkova won her first grass court title with victory over Karolina Pliskova in the final of the Aegon International in Eastbourne.
The Slovak prevailed 7-5 6-3 in the entertaining encounter to claim her second title of the season and the sixth of her career. For Pliskova, the result marked her ninth defeat in 14 WTA finals, and the sixth loss in her last eight.
Cibulkova was broken immediately on a windy day in the south east, but was not punished after her Czech opponent double-faulted three times in her opening service game. The 12th seed then continued to make headway with Pliskova unable to find her range, moving 3-1 clear.
However, it was then Cibulkova’s turn to slip up. Three lost games in a row – two on serve – handed the initiative back to Pliskova, who proceeded to donate it back again after being broken herself in the eighth game.
It was, in many ways, a typical topsy-turvy set in the WTA, with neither seeming too keen to win it at times. But an errant game from Pliskova when serving to take it to a tie-break proved very costly. A backhand into the net and a forehand long handed Cibulkova a 0-30 lead, and the set was hers when Pliskova dragged a backhand wide.
A fired up Cibulkova, whose intensity on court has become a hallmark of her game, refused to let up in the second set, securing an early break of serve in the second set – thanks to a stunning pass – as her groundstrokes became increasingly potent from both the forehand and backhand.
While Pliskova turned on the style in bursts, a noted lack of consistency thwarted the Czech’s hope of serious threateningly Cibulkova. The seventh game of the second set offered her the best chance of finding a foothold, but an inability to capitalise on any of the four break points she carved out would haunt her. Knowing the importance of averting the danger, Cibulkova let out a giant roar when getting the hold to go 5-2 up.
If there was any finishing line fever, the former Australian Open runner-up showed few signs of it. She immediately raced 40-0 clear, and became triumphant when Pliskova pulled a backhand wide on Cibulkova’s third match point.
Speaking to BBC Sport afterwards, an ecstatic Cibulkova commented, “This is my best week on grass. I was playing really well. The conditions were very hard.
“I said when I arrived that Martina Navratilova has won it 11 times – it would be good to win it once.”
Pliskova’s serve, such a key facet of her game, was not as much of a weapon against Cibulkova as it was in her semi-final versus Johanna Konta. Just four aces – two in each set – were dealt from the Czech’s racket, as her adversary managed to formulate rallies and dictate the play, and exploit Pliskova’s inferior movement.
The windy conditions also favoured Cibulkova, whose compact style was always going to be less affected than Pliskova’s more languid approach.
The win moves Cibulkova up to 18th in the WTA rankings, and Wimbledon’s 19th seed will begin her SW19 quest against Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Pliskova, meanwhile, can still be happy with another successful week on the grass, as she maintained her ranking at 17. Yanina Wickmayer awaits in the first round of Wimbledon.
But Eastbourne belonged to Dominika Cibulkova, thanks to successes over Jelena Ostapenko, Kateryna Bondarenko, Agniezska Radwanska, Monica Puig and Pliskova. The pocket rocket of women’s tennis is enjoying a fruitful year and now lies 7th in the WTA race.
Her forceful, aggressive mantra is suited well to tennis’ quickest surface, and with Radwanska in her section of the Wimbledon draw, there’s no reason why the 27-year-old can’t have a deep run over the next fortnight.
The Croatian-Australian pairing of Darija Jurak and Anastasia Rodionova overcame the Chinese Taipei duo of Chan Hao-ching and Chan Yung-jan in three sets.
The unseeded Jurak/Rodionova dropped the first set 7-5 but won the second 7-6 in a close encounter. They then wrapped up the title courtesy of a 10-6 win in the super tie-breaker. It was the pair’s first triumph together as pairing, Jurak’s third overall and Rodionova’s 10th.