STANFORD, Calif. — Dominika Cibulkova avenged one of the worst losses ever in a WTA Tour final, outlasting Agnieszka Radwanska 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to win the Bank of the West Classic on Sunday.
Seven months after failing to even win a game against Radwanska in the Sydney final, Cibulkova came out aggressive and put the top-seeded Radwanska on the run. Cibulkova, seeded third, overcame two service breaks in the final set – both on double-faults – to win the final four games.
The Slovak sealed the match on the fifth championship point with a backhand, crosscourt winner. She fell to the hard court and covered her face in celebration as her father, Milan, ran out of the stands to give her a hug.
"He got a little bit emotional," she said, smiling.
The victory gave Cibulkova her third career singles title and first win against Radwanska in four tries. Radwanska, ranked No. 4 in the world, fell to 12-5 in WTA finals.
The Polish star started the year by winning back-to-back tournaments at Auckland and Sydney, where she crushed Cibulkova 6-0, 6-0. It was the first whitewash in a final since November 2006 and only one in Cibulkova's career.
The rematch had a far different feel from the start.
Cibulkova won the opening game on her serve, pumping her fist after flicking a forehand down the line. That confidence, which she admitted wore down in the weeks following Radwanska's rout, never relented despite several setbacks.
Radwanska ran back and to her right to extend her arm for an overhead winner to break Cibulkova at 3-2. She also hit a forehand winner down the line for another break to take the first set.
Radwanska showed almost no emotion throughout another sun-splashed day on the Stanford campus. But Cibulkova's frustration never simmered, either – even drawing laughs from the crowd when she playfully slapped a ball away once with her hand after a point – and she positively pumped her fist and shouted at every chance.
After losing the first seven break points she earned, Cibulkova began going for more winners and finally came through. She crushed a backhand return at Radwanska that went unreturned to go ahead 4-3 and take the second set.
But Cibulkova double-faulted long to go down 3-1 in the final set, then immediately broke back with a flurry of all-or-nothing shots that Radwanska couldn't handle. Cibulkova double-faulted again – this time long – to hand Radwanska a 4-2 lead, only to force Radwanska to net a forehand for a fourth consecutive game with a service break.
With a chance to serve out the match at 5-4, Cibulkova nearly crumbled. She sailed forehands long on her first three championship points, then held off a service break before coming up short chasing a crosscourt volley by Radwanska on the fourth championship point.
Finally, after a long baseline rally, Cibulkova ripped the backhand winner that sent all of her emotions – and her father – pouring onto the court. Cibulkova also won in Carlsbad last year and in Moscow in 2011 for her only other WTA titles, but she will surely savor this one more given all she has overcome.
Cibulkova is 3-5 in WTA finals and is projected to rise from No. 25 to No. 21 in the rankings.