In the 42nd year of the Eastbourne International tennis event, Dominika Cibulkova will meet Karolina Pliskova in the 2016 final of the event. The two players have only ever met once before in previous meetings and Cibulkova won that match 6-7 6-3 6-3 in the semifinals of the 2014 Kuala Lumpur event.
Cibulkova and Pliskova clash in tomorrow’s Aegon International Final.
For many it’s an enticing final, with Cibulkova improving her grass court results considerably, while Pliskova is one of the most in form players on the grass this season. The diminutive Slovakian player Cibulkova has achieved her first ever grass court final at any level of competitive tennis, but she is a dangerous player on any surface due to the fighting spirit she often shows on a tennis court. On the other hand, the tall, big-serving Czech star is renowned for her lack of emotion on a tennis court, which is polar opposite to her final opponent Cibulkova.
Pliskova hasn’t really pushed on from the success she experienced last season. She made six finals last season and lost five of them. The fact that she has accumulated some good results by winning the Nottingham singles titles and making the Eastbourne final, takes pressure off herself picking up points at the bigger events. Notoriously Pliskova has struggled enormously in the past at converting good match wins into great grand slam wins, as she has never gone beyond the third round at a Grand Slam event before. For a player that serves as consistently big as Pliskova, it’s a surprise on the grandest of scales.
Cibulkova may be one of the smaller players on the tour, but what she lacks in height she makes up in true heart. For Cibulkova she hasn’t found it truly difficult to produce significant results at grand slam level having made the Quarter-Final or better at every event. Her breakthrough result came at the 2014 Australian Open where she rallied her way to her first major final, but has suffered set back after set back due to an ongoing problem with her heel. That heel injury would halt a lot of her 2015 progression, but as of now she is only looking forward to what the remainder of her career has to offer.
How the match could be won and lost
One major weapon that separates Pliskova and Cibulkova’s games is the serve. If Pliskova can truly find her rhythm on that shot then it could be an extremely taxing afternoon for the World No. 21 Cibulkova. In Pliskova’s semifinal encounter against Johanna Konta, she won 48 of her 64 first serve points, which further highlights the importance for her to have a very good serving day. A further indication to how well Pliskova can rely on her serve is the timing of her aces in big moments, like she showed against Konta. It took two and a half sets for Pliskova’s serve to get broken and eventually was only broken once in total.
Cibulkova’s strategy coming into this match is to exploit the lack of movement that is a common occurrence in Pliskova matches. Cibulkova’s footwork in preparation for the ball is as good as anyone on the tour, so making the most of the positive elements to her game, while emphasizing the limitations to Pliskova’s game will be of the utmost importance. The Slovakian has to spread the court and make Pliskova cover every single grain of grass from the beginning to the conclusion of the match. If Cibulkova can successfully get Pliskova constantly on the defensive, then Pliskova becomes less dangerous, as Pliskova is one of the weaker players on tour from a defensive standpoint.
The extra experience of playing finals regularly in 2016 could be a major advantage for Cibulkova. The 2014 Australian Open finalist now has progressed to four finals on four different surfaces (indoor hard, outdoor hard, clay and grass) which demonstrates tremendous consistency. Cibulkova is a threat to all players when she is expressing herself on any surface and will be a player that many will want to avoid at Wimbledon next week.