There are two types of players: one who scales a new height and is content with that achievement, and another who immediately starts plotting for their next climbing expedition. Dominika Cibulkova belongs to the latter category.
The Slovak is at a career-high world No5 ranking following a standout 2016 that ended with her claiming her biggest title to date at the WTA Finals in Singapore – one of four trophies she captured last season.
This time last year, Cibulkova was ranked No66 in the world and was fighting her way back after an Achilles’ surgery derailed her career in 2015.
Today, Cibulkova is the No3 seed in a stacked Qatar Open field and is adjusting to the fact she now has the words ‘world No5’ typed next to her name.
“Of course you have to think about it because this is something I feel. I’m in a new position. It’s something I have to get used to or to start to see normal because, of course, I’m in the situation for the first time,” Cibulkova admitted in Doha, where she is appearing for the first time since 2013.
“Of course, you feel bigger pressure. The players just come on the court and they really want to beat you because they have nothing to lose. Even I was top 20 or even before I was top 10, to be in top five is still a different position.
“I’m trying to not panic that this is something new for me. I’m trying to work on myself every day and get used to it.”
The 2014 Australian Open runner-up is renowned for her relentless fight on the court and that grit translates into unlimited ambition off it.
Asked if she believes she can move up higher in the rankings, Cibulkova said: Yeah, for sure. I’m 100 per cent convinced I can improve on the ranking. This is the mentality I need to have.
“I can see it go even further. If I would only want to stick to my ranking, I would be afraid that I don’t want to lose the ranking, that’s the mentality that would really not help me. This is something I’m trying to work on with my coach and with my team. As I said, this is a new position for me. I’m trying to work out things well.”
Cibulkova made seven finals last year on all surfaces – clay, grass, indoor and outdoor hard courts – and exhibited the kind of consistency throughout the season that other top players can only dream of.
The 27-year-old is hoping she can keep things going in 2017. She’s played four tournaments so far this year, with her best results being a semi-final appearance in St. Petersburg earlier this month and a third round exit at the Australian Open.
Quizzed about the key behind her consistency last year, Cibulkova said: “I wasn’t thinking to be consistent at all. I was just really, really focusing on my next match I had ahead. I wasn’t paying attention to results. Of course, the good results give you confidence. But I always wanted more last year. I wasn’t satisfied with any results. I think all these details and all these things came together, and that’s why I had such a great year.
“But there was last year, and now it’s a new year. The time flew really, really fast. It was just crazy how fast there is a new season. It’s already started. I want to be here right now and playing good tennis.”
Cibulkova is in Doha for the first time in four years and hasn’t won a match here since 2010. She’s looking to change that though this week in the Qatari capital.
“This time of the year has for me always been a little bit strange, you know, because you’re after the big tournament, after the Australian Open. Then there’s Indian Wells and Miami just a few weeks ahead.
“I didn’t play this tournament for a while. When I came here, it was mostly after Fed Cup. I was really, really tired. This is finally, finally the first time I can have good preparation. I can hit more. I can get used to the courts and balls and everything around here.
“I’m really looking forward for my first match. I’m feeling fine on the court. Just to get maybe – well, not maybe. By winning matches, you get more confidence. This is what I expect.”
Cibulkova has a bye in the first round and awaits the winner of the clash between Jelena Jankovic and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Ahead of the Qatar Total Open, World No5 Dominika Cibulkova tries Sport360’s Arabic Test.
Let’s see how she fares…
Whether they’ve watched the Australian Open final or not, the stars of the WTA are united in awe of Serena and Venus Williams.
Sport’s most famous and successful sister act wrote a new chapter in tennis history when they faced off in the title decider in Melbourne, and at 35 and 36, Serena and Venus showed the world there is no expiration date to their record-shattering ways.
World No6 Agnieszka Radwanska watched both the women’s and men’s (Federer v Nadal) Australian Open finals and said it felt like a blast from the past.
“Well, it was a very good match. Of course, reminds me those times when I was a kid and I was watching them (Venus and Serena) playing finals. That was kind of, like, comeback for the beginning of the 2000s years,” Radwanska told reporters in Doha.
Dominika Cibulkova, the world No5 who is seeded third in the Qatari capital this week, lost in the third round in Melbourne and said she never watches matches after exiting the tournament.
She did however describe both Williams sisters as inspirational.
“Serena, she’s a legend. I think it was great for her. She said she had only one goal: to come there and to win a grand slam. Her confidence is really, really something we all can look up to,” said Cibulkova of the world No1, who captured an Open Era record 23rd major title last month.
“And Venus, you know, I think she gives hope to – I don’t want this to sound bad – but, like, she’s older than me, and she still can play finals of a grand slam. That’s something I really admire in her,” added the 27-year-old Slovak.