Battling Cibulkova powers her way to AEGON International title

Dominika Cibulkova with the trophy - picture: Edward Thomas photography

Dominika Cibulkova with the trophy - picture: Edward Thomas photography

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Dominika Cibulkova was crowned the AEGON International champion and banked the $132,550 winner’s cheque thanks to a straight sets victory against Karolina Pliskova on Saturday.

Cibulkova, 27, was at her energetic best as she triumphed 7-5, 6-3 against her Czech opponent.

Pliskova, who beat Eastbourne’s Johanna Konta in yesterday’s semi-final, had to make do with the runners-up trophy and a cheque for $70,550.

It was Cibulkova’s first tournament on grass for 2016 and her maiden WTA title on grass. The world No.21 from Slovakia advanced to the final thanks to victories against in-form qualifier Monica Puig and also enjoyed a rousing three-set triumph against No.1 seed Agnieszka Radwańska. The Radwanska win that took 184 minutes was the third longest match in Eastbourne’s history.

A delighted Cibulkova said, “It was an extremely tough match today. With the conditions and with the wind it was really tough to play and stay focused.

“In the beginning I was nervous about the wind, my coach came and said focus on your serve don’t focus on the wind. I found the rhythm and stayed in the rallies and I was feeling good on court and knew what I had to do.

“This is a special title for me it feels just great and my first on grass. This tournament is the toughest before the grand slam. The competition here was really strong and I was able to beat top players on grass and that gives me a lot of confidence.

“I love to play on the centre court here in Eastbourne. This crowd here are very nice they are different to the other corwds. It feels great when people like me and cheer for me it gives me an extra feeling. I will be back here next year that is for sure.”

Both players have performed well this week, but it has been the Slovakian dynamo who has impressed with her all action style, and today she impressed again as she produced a thoroughly complete performance to overthrow her big serving opponent Pliskova.

It was a certainly a contrast of styles; the Czech Pliskova served hard and tried not to engage with Cibulkova at the net; and the 27-year-old Cibulkova was the one who was trying to force the issue with an all action display.

The first set was a thoroughly entertaining affair; Pliskova broke Cibulkova immediately – but not to be undone Cibulkova replied and broke Pliskova in the next game.

After the breathtaking start Cibulkova settled into the game and began to make Pliskova move around the court, something the Czech player was reluctant to do.

With the game at 3-1 in Cibulkova’s favour, Pliskova did briefly rally, and broke the Slovakian twice in quick succession to level the game. It was certainly a slow start for Pliskova; her service game wasn’t as strong as it was against Konta in three sets.

The determination of Cibulkova was something to behold; the world no.21 just refused to be outdone and she broke Pliskova’s serve just as the Czech was looking to gain some momentum.

And the rest of the first set followed in the same vein with Cibulkova dictating the game and making Pliskova go into uncomfortable areas; and ultimately it ended in a positive result for the Slovakian as she took the first set 7-5.

In the second set Cibulkova broke early again and raced into a 4-1 lead; at this point she was flying, everything she was hitting was finding the required target, as for Pliskova it wasn’t going her way, she looked dejected.

A brief fightback ensued from Pliskova but ultimately nothing was going to stop Cibulkova getting her hands on the trophy, that’s now four finals this year the Slovakian has been involved in, and the first she has won, certainly an ideal preparation for Wimbledon.

Pliskova, who won the grass court title at Nottingham earlier this month, has played three matches in two days and looked jaded. She added, “It was quite close. I didn’t gain a set but I had chances. On the other hand she was playing very well even in the wind and she was serving well and she deserved to win.”