You can be a fighter to the core, but not have a killer instinct, and according to Dominika Cibulkova, the former comes naturally to her, but the latter requires lots of work to acquire.
The world No5 is renowned for her unrelenting fight on the court, and while she appeared short on that in her 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 defeat to Ekaterina Makarova in the Dubai second round yesterday, Cibulkova says it was her killer instinct that deserted her against the Russian.
The Slovakian No3 seed was up 2-0 in the decider against Makarova, who up until this year had never beaten Cibulkova in any of their previous three meetings. But the Russian snapped her losing streak to Cibulkova at the Australian Open last month, and was able to back that up with another victory over her yesterday.
“It helped a lot, of course, because I never beat her before,” Makarova said of that win in Melbourne. “So this match, when I was coming out and I kind of more believing that I can win, and I knew what to do, how to play, where to go, yeah, I was kind of staying until the end that I was believing that I can beat her.”
Cibulkova is as self-critical as one can get, and she gave a thorough explanation of what went wrong for her during the match.
The 27-year-old said her semi-final loss to Yulia Putintseva in St. Petersburg earlier this month, and both her defeats to Makarova in Melbourne and Dubai, all shared a common problem, and she was planning on fixing it.
“I lost the matches because of the same thing. So I know what I have to work on and this is something I want to get back on my own track – what I was doing last year,” Cibulkova said on Tuesday.
“Last year I won so many three-set matches but only because of this one thing, that I had this killer instinct, I was just really going for more when I was up. And now it’s a different story.
“I’m not that confident and I’m not doing the right thing that I should do. That’s what we’re going to work on, in the practice too. If I was playing good tennis, I wouldn’t get into these three sets, and I’m just losing because I’m not finishing the matches.”
She added: “Fighting is a different thing than the killer instinct in the match. And today I got really frustrated with myself that I didn’t match the end of the match. The last two games (against Makarova) I was really upset.”
Cibulkova, who won her biggest title to date at the WTA Finals last year in Singapore and had a stellar 2016 that saw her win four trophies from seven finals reached, admits that she may look feisty and gritty on court but that going for the kill is something that does not come easily to her.
“You know somebody has the killer instinct and somebody doesn’t. And it’s just me, it’s more that I really have to push myself into this. Maybe it looks different on the court, that I’m happy about it, but it’s something I have to push myself into it and right now I’m not doing it right,” said the Slovak.
Cibulkova was one of three top-five seeds to crashed out on Tuesday, with No5 seed Garbine Muguruza retiring with an Achilles injury while down 1-4 against Kateryna Bondarenko, and No2 seed Karolina Pliskova falling in straight sets to Kristina Mladenovic.