WTA Finals Singapore 2016, Semi-Final Preview #1: Dominika Cibulkova v Svetlana Kuznetsova


Battling to reach the final of the WTA Finals for their first time in their careers, the number seven and eight seeds, Dominika Cibulkova and Svetlana Kuznetsova, will meet in the first of the semi-finals in Singapore on Saturday.

While she was the last player to qualify for Singapore, Kuznetsova was the first player to confirm her place in the semi-finals. The Russian player powered through fatigue to win three set thrillers against Agnieszka Radwanska (7-5 1-6 7-5, 2h48) and Karolina Pliskova (3-6 6-2 7-6(6), 2h17) on Monday and Wednesday respectively. In both matches, her opponent served for the match – Kuznetsova saved a match point against Radwanska and was two points from defeat against Pliskova, but prevailed in both to win her 21st and 22nd three set matches of 2016.

In what was essentially a dead rubber against Garbiñe Muguruza in her final match from the white group, Kuznetsova started in style but ran out of gas as Muguruza won 12 of the last 13 games to claim her first win of the week, 3-6 6-0 6-1.

Cibulkova headed into her final round robin match against Simona Halep knowing that only a straight sets win would keep her hopes of qualifying intact. The Slovak player did just that with a superb display, defeating a struggling but battling Halep, 6-3 7-6(5). Cibulkova made a super start, winning 13 of the first 14 points to go up a quick 3-0. Halep looked to be hurting with her left knee taped up as Cibulkova won the first set in just 30 minutes. However, the second set would take almost three times as long as the first…

Cibulkova was three times up a break in the second set but on all three occasions, was immediately broken back by Halep. Cibukova’s penetrating groundstrokes, notably the forehand, were putting Halep under great pressure but to her credit, the Romanian player didn’t feel sorry for herself and kept working hard from the baseline. As the quality and intensity of the match increased, Halep prevailed in two lengthy deuce games; in the latter at 4-4, she saved two break points to inch ahead and within one game of winning the second set.

It didn’t come as a surprise when Cibulkova aborted a ball toss at the start of her service game at *4-5. However, she took a deep breath and found her fighting instincts to hold with scoreboard pressure at both *4-5 and *5-6, having lost the first points of the respective games. Into a second tiebreak and the pair opened with the point of the match; a squash shot from Halep dinked over the net for a winner. Pummelling her groundstrokes and finding some neat angles too, Cibulkova eventually held her nerve to win. The second set of Cibulkova-Halep was superb and if you missed it, it is well worth a watch back…

By virtue of Angelique Kerber defeating Madison Keys in the final round robin match in straight sets, Cibulkova finished in second place in the red group behind Kerber to qualify for the semi-finals.


Head-to-head record: Cibulkova leads Kuznetsova, 5-3 in their head-to-head. Kuznetsova won their first three encounters between 2007 and 2008 but since then, Cibulkova has won five on the trot. Their last two matches have both gone the distance including their most recent encounter, a first match-up in over five years in Wuhan, where Cibulkova battled to the win a high-quality three-setter, 3-6 6-3 6-4.

Interesting stat: In five previous appearances at the WTA Finals between 2004 and 2009 at venues in the USA, Spain and Qatar, Kuznetsova never once made it out of the round robin group stage. In fact, Kuznetsova had won just three of her fifteen matches at the WTA Finals. Kuznetsova could double her tally of wins in the WTA Finals with a win on Saturday.

Final thoughts: If their last match in Wuhan is anything to go by then we can expect a very competitive semi-final. No doubt fatigue will be there for both players… particularly Kuznetsova who it doesn’t go without saying has played a very heavy schedule since the US Open. However, one thing we’ve learnt this week is to never write off the heart and fight of Sveta.

Both are ending their season on a huge high, both are playing well and both have handled pressure admirably well in the past few weeks, not only to qualify for this tournament but to reach the semi-finals.

It is very tough to separate the pair but i’m picking Cibulkova to reach the final.

Photo in this post by mootennis.com

16 thoughts on “WTA Finals Singapore 2016, Semi-Final Preview #1: Dominika Cibulkova v Svetlana Kuznetsova

  1. Fair play to Muguruza finishing on a really strong note. You couldn’t help but feel Sveta relaxed a little too much after such a dominant first set. And when she couldn’t break early in the third set it seemed like she’d decided not to dig deep so as to save something for the semi finals. But Muguruza played beautifully towards the end, especially on break points. I reckon she’ll be #1 at some point next year and a contender at all of the Slams.


    • I don’t see it coming next year (maybe 2018) but definitely see her winning another slam. However, she desperately needs to improve her net approaches. She seems so helpless at times because she is preparing and constructing the point beautifully but failing at the net.


      • Its just been pressure. I think after having some time to reset, she’ll come back with confidence. I’d imagine she’ll play doubles again next year to help her net game though.


      • That’s a good point, I’d like to see Garbiñe play doubles again. Her net game has always been a bit up and down but she hasn’t looked at all convincing in the last few months.


    • I liked Garbine playing doubles with Carla last year because their contrasting styles made them fun to watch, but I don’t want to see her (or Carla) sacrifice the cream of her singles career for it. Garbine was too tired to do herself justice in last year’s WTA semifinals, and I think her heavy schedule was the reason.


      • That’s why you manage your schedule. She doesn’t need to play every tournament with Carla, just often enough to stay sharp. Plenty other players manage it. Look at Pliskova…


  2. I dont understand how Aga is number two in the group.

    The ranking have always been decided purely on the basis of Win/Loss matches and Win/Loss sets irrespective of who beat who. This is the first time I am seeing this type of round robin ranking decision where Kuz is number 1 and Aga is number 2.

    Aga and Kuz both won two matches, however, Aga’s wins were straight sets. Aga should play Domi.


    • My understanding is that the following applies –

      Final Standings of Singles Round Robin Competition

      a. Final Standings
      The first of the following methods that applies determines the final standings of each group in the round
      robin competition:
      i. Greatest number of wins; then
      ii. Greatest number of matches played; then
      iii. Head-to-head results if only two (2) players are tied

      So Aga plays Kerber as Kuz beat Aga.


  3. As far as I know round-robin rankings have always been and everywhere decided on the basis of Win/Loss matches, then Win/Loss sets, then Win/Loss games. It doesnt matter who beat who!


    • Yeah I was a tad confused too when they announced she was playing Cibulkova after winning the first set. I honestly think she’d be better playing Kerber anyway…


  4. I think that both semi’s should be good. I am going with Cibulkova to win this in a tight match. She has bundles of energy and is fast around the court. I have lots of admiration for what Kuznetsova has achieved this week but this might be too difficult for her after all the matches that she has played recently.
    I will be cheering for Aga to win the other semi but Kerber will want to end the season on a high and is playing great tennis this year so Kerber may be too good for Aga on this occasion.
    A Kerber/Cibulkova final could be exciting especially if it is as close as their first round match here.


  5. Well, I pick Kuznetsova/Kerberfor the final.
    Kerber actually plays some decent tennis hete, althiugh the slow surface probably would favour Aga. I think it’ll be a very long thriller going the distance. Both have their chances but I pick Kerber to advanche with 7:6 4:6 7:5
    In the other semifinal with Cibulkova and Kuznetsova I pick Kuznetsova for the win in two very tough sets. Both – especially Svetlana – are tired but Kuznetsova just has more experience and a very variable game. The surface provably favours Kuznetsova against the aggressive groundstrokes of the Slovak. I think the experience, fighting spirit and intelligence will help Kuznetsova to advance with 7:5 7:5


  6. The surface definitely favours Kerber (or any of the gals that have strong legs). It is a meduim fast court, and the ball does sit up (describe as sticky or tacky). But you have to work hard and use the legs to hit through your shots. Kuznetsova hasn’t beat Cibulkova since 2008, Cibulkova leads that H2H 5-3. Winning their last match a few weeks ago in the Wuhan semi-finals. I think Cibulkova has the edge in this match up. In the second semi-final (they have not played in over a year). Kerber seems to have gain strength, both physically and mentally this year, although; she doesn’t like playing Radwanska. But, for both players there shouldn’t be any big surprises. Just that they haven’t played in a while – so we shall see if that makes a big difference. I suspect most believe this will go the distance and I think it will as well.


  7. Even though I’m going to Cheer on Angie to win, we’re all in for a treat regardless of the final match up… especially if it’s an Aga va Domi final. I wouldn’t be complaining about that final, given how Close and amazing there matches have been this year.


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