By Jane Voigt
Key Biscayne, Fla. — Windy days in south Florida are normal, especially in spring. But today’s wiggy currents snapped flags, skirts and wits as Dominika Cibulkova saved critical break points to upset former Sony champion and the No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska.
For saving four match points in set two and demonstrating her best tenacious tennis to take the third, Dominika moved into her first semifinal at Sony Open Tennis. The farthest she had advanced here was the round of 16 in 2012 and 2013.
“I’m really glad about my win today,” Cibulkova said of her 36 76(5) 63 victory. “It wasn’t easy to play today against Aga. I had to stay aggressive all the time even if I missed many shots. I just had to keep going.”
But the cherry on top of the No. 10 seed’s ice cream had to be the fact that on Monday she will be part of the elite top 10 on the WTA Tour.
“Even before the tournament, like they keep asking me, Top 10, and everything, and I just, you know, I just said, like, okay, if I should be there I will be there. If I should not be there, I will not be there. So, now I’m there. So finally it’s over,” she said, smiling.
Aside from the Slovakian’s Zen approach to her ranking, a spot in the top 10 is a position she has eyed, and one she now believes she belongs.
“I [believed] I did like even before,” Cibulkova began. “But my game was a lot of times up and down. I could be beat by great players. I didn’t know how to keep the consistency. But now my game is there, even maybe I’m mentally a more mature person and also on the court. And also the confidence, for sure. It’s something that you need to have to be there.”
Fans witnessed 19 breaks of serve before the women settled down in the third. Both blamed the wind for missteps and their inability to defend their serves.
“I have to say that 80% of it was due to the wind,” Cibulkova said. “I start off my toss was not good. Usually in the good weather sometimes I can get difficulties with my serve and not even in this wind, so it was tough for me to play.”
“Conditions today were really tough,” Radwanska admitted. “The wind was really strong. And you could see we were just winning returns. Most of those games were on the side with the wind.”
Weather aside, Radwanska was not eager to admit that she lost the match. She was up 4-2 in the tiebreak of the second set and let the lead slip.
“Well, I think it was so close, the second set,” she said. “But I think, you know, in those matches you have to play good and you have to be lucky. I was just playing good and she was both (smiling).”
Radwanska has not won a title this year, where Cibulkova is riding high. She was the runner-up at The Australian Open and won her fourth WTA career title weeks later in Acapulco.
During the final at Indian Wells last month, Radwanska’s left knee became a problem. Her movement, which is the guiding light of her style, was hampered and eventually undermined her confidence and game. Today, her knee was wrapped with multicolored Kinesio tape while her right shoulder wore tone-on-tone Kinesio tape. When she had a couple fingers wrapped before the third set, she looked like the walking wounded.
“I don’t know if I can practice that,” Radwanska said when asked about her keen court sense, anticipation, and movement. “I think it’s natural, you know, serve to a higher power. It’s just not my body, not my shoulder. I always was the player that really run and always a lot of good long rallies.”
Cibulkova and Radwanska are short compared to many players. Cibulkova is five-three and Radwanska is five-eight. Their movement is center to their games because they need an asset that counterbalances softer serves, in part. Rest assured, they can pop one at 100+ M.P.H., but to rely on their second serves begs failure.
Last year, Radwanska made (in the above video) international sporting news with a behind-the-back winner on Stadium Court, the same court she lost on today. She was reminded of that moment in her press conference. At least the memory brought a smile to the otherwise happy Radwanska. “It was on the same court, too,” she said.