Kerber finds a way to win
Cibulkova makes Kerber dig deep to pull off win
She clenched her fist, let out a roar, looked up into the stands of the Singapore Indoor Stadium - and thumped her chest.
Angelique Kerber may have been decked out in an outfit of white and a light-pastel pleated skirt, but there was nothing meek about her showing on court last night.
The reigning world No. 1 beat Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 6-3 in the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global last night, and she was made to slog for the win.
After a tight first set that could have gone either way, Cibulkova blitzed the second and came out firing in the same vein in the third, racing to a 2-0 lead.
Kerber had to dig deep, and that chest thump seemed to point to just where she had to look to find the grit required to first drag herself back into the match, and then to summon even more to sprint the finish line in the Red Group clash.
"I know me, and I know that I'm fighting until the last point. I was trying really to focus on every single point and not think about the score, because, yeah, I think that was the key to just keep going for it and play like I'm playing." said the German, describing her mental state in the third set.
There was no doubt in her mind that when she dug deep within herself, she would find steel.
"I was like more expecting that I can turn around the match. The first break I was down, but I think I turned around it with my emotion and with my positive thinking after the break.
"It's of course great to start the tournament with a match and to win like this where you know you had to play your best, in this important situation," said the 28-year-old.
It was an important situation: it was Kerber's first WTA Finals as the world's top player.
And Cibulkova was clearly determined not to roll over and surrender.
Indeed, there was little separating the two.
"It is really, really tough. I made few mistakes, few mistakes from the second serve and… I think this is what made me lose today. In this game it's all about small details. She was just bit more consistent in a few games, and that's what made her win today," said the Slovakian.
"When I was hitting my shots I was clear what I want to do, and it was working. But, yeah, her movement is very good. She's world No. 1, so she must have something extra in something," she added.
Expectation is what comes with the No. 1 tag.
Kerber admits to feeling the heat, but most champions are forged through fire, and for that, she is grateful to Cibulkova.
"I mean, of course the pressure is there. But it's a challenge for me and I'm really trying to play my best tennis in the last tournament, in the last week of the year," she said.
"It was a really close and tough match, so I think that was also really important for me, to have a match like that in the first round," she said.
"So I think it starts good for me, this tournament."
TODAY'S ACTION, FROM 7.30PM:
- Agnieszka Radwanska v Svetlana Kuznetsova followed by
- Garbine Muguruza v Karolina Pliskova