The diminutive Slovakian, Dominika Cibulkova has put on some outstanding matches in 2016 most notably her three set battles with Agnieszka Radwanska, getting the better of the Pole on more than one occasion this year. Unfortunately for Cibulkova, an Achilles injury that required surgery forced the world number five to miss a few months of the 2015 season which saw her slide down the rankings, however, this year, Cibulkova has put things right with a good level of professionalism, therefore being rewarded for the hard work.
Cibulkova recorded a respected 53-21 win-loss record in 2016, and the 2014 Australian Open runner-up won a tour-high four WTA titles along with three runner-up finishes, only the world number one Angelique Kerber reached more finals (8) than the Slovak.
The reigning WTA Finals champion reached her first final of the year in Acapulco losing to Sloane Stephens in a three set thriller that required a final set tiebreaker to decide the outcome of the match, and in April, Cibulkova won the fifth title of her career in Katowice defeating Camila Giorgi in the final, which was the young Italian's third consecutive runner-up finish in Katowice. The Slovak reached her biggest final in two years at the Premier Mandatory event in Madrid, ousting top seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the first round in three sets and she would play three consecutive three set matches to reach the semifinals in the Spanish capital but ultimately, Cibulkova ran out of fuel, losing to Simona Halep in straight sets in the final. Despite losing to the Romanian in the final, that run in Madrid consolidated her seeding for the French Open which was a target of hers.
Cibulkova won her first non-hard title in Eastbourne defeating the US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova in the final but before that, she dispatched Radwanska once again in three sets in the quarterfinals. Following this run to the title in Eastbourne, Cibulkova entered Wimbledon full of confidence and once again, she was victorious over Radwanska for the third time in one of the matches of the year. The Slovak saved a match point en route to victory, and her nine-match winning streak was ended by Elena Vesnina in her second Wimbledon quarterfinal appearance.
The Slovak lost to two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the final of Wuhan, however, a week later, Cibulkova would claim the title in Linz to qualify for the WTA Finals in Singapore for the first time in her career. Cibulkova went on to clinch the biggest title of her career in Singapore defeating the world number one and reigning Australian Open and US Open champion Angelique Kerber in the final.
Despite reaching the final of the Australian Open in 2014 and backing it up with a respected quarterfinal finish the following year losing to eventual champion Serena Williams, the Slovak suffered a first round loss at the hands of Kristina Mladenovic who was the 28th seed, and it was Cibulkova's first loss in the opening round in Melbourne since 2010. Unfortunately, the world number five paid the price for being unseeded as she lost in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and Miami Open losing to Radwanska and Garbine Muguruza but both ended 5-7 in the final set, therefore, Cibulkova competed well and it was a sign of things to come in 2016 for the Slovak on the comeback trail.
The Slovakian lost in the first round only four times in 2016 to Mladenovic in Melbourne, Anett Kontaveit in Monterrey, Barbora Krejickova in Prague and to Alize Cornet in Bejing (first round bye). Disappointing third round losses to Carla Suarez Navarro and Lesia Tsurenko at the French and US Opens respectively were amongst the low points of the Slovak's season.
Cibulkova's surprising triumph in Singapore was certainly her highlight of the year along with winning her fourth Premier title in Eastbourne and title wins in Katowice and Linz. The runner-up finishes in Madrid, Wuhan and Acapulco were amongst her best results in the WTA season. In total, Cibulkova has beaten top ten players on 33 occasions but this season was her best-recorded results of doing that by boasting eight wins, that included three over Radwanska, Halep, Pliskova, two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova twice and none bigger than her victory over Angelique Kerber.
The first round exits at the Australian Open, Monterrey, Prague and in Bejing were Cibulkova's worst results in 2016 but she's remained solid throughout the year posting some good wins.
The "pocket rocket" has worked tremendously hard to fight her way back up the rankings, and she has done so with flying colours. Cibulkova is the perfect example for Lucie Safarova who spent part of this year battling with illness and Eugenie Bouchard to get back up the rankings.
Furthermore, Cibulkova's fighting spirit and repeated cries of "POME" pump her up during her matches with this never say die attitude, and it is a remarkable achievement for the Slovak to win the most titles in 2016 considering where she started the year. Capping off her most successful season in style by winning the WTA Finals in Singapore sets her up nicely heading into the 2017 campaign, where she will be looking to win her first Grand Slam singles title, and starting at the Australian Open a place where she has good memories in the past could be the place where Cibulkova wins a Grand Slam title.