WTA Finals: Angelique Kerber “really happy” to survive thrilling opener against Dominika Cibulkova

Speaking to the press following her thrilling three-set victory over Dominika Cibulkova, Angelique Kerber sat down with the press to discuss the pressures she faces this year in her return to Singapore compared to last year, in addition to what she felt made the difference in a match that had its fair share of momentum shifts.

WTA Finals: Angelique Kerber “really happy” to survive thrilling opener against Dominika Cibulkova
Angelique Kerber celebrates after defeating Dominika Cibulkova in their first round robin match of the White Group at the 2016 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Shortly after her three-set victory over seventh seed Dominika Cibulkova, world number one Angelique Kerber sat down with the press to talk about pressures she now faces 12 months on from her last trip to the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, in addition to what she felt made the difference in a match that really could have swung either way.

Kerber Talks Epic Victory Over Cibulkova

In her first match against a top 10 player since the U.S. Open final, Kerber proved just why she was recently named the 2016 WTA Player of the Year, digging deep in her first of three round robin matches of the week to edge out a resilient Cibulkova, 6-3 in the third.

“I think it was really good match from both of us, especially the first set,” she said. “It was really close, and I think we played over one hour.”

“The second set she played very well from the beginning. I missed a little bit like [a] few balls, but still in the third set we were both playing on the really high level.”

After splitting sets with the Slovak, the world number one quickly found herself a break down in the early stages of the decider, with the potential risk of a major upset on the cards. However, Kerber is not the queen of women’s tennis for nothing, and with the newfound belief that she’s recently established in 2016, the world number one quickly steadied the ship, reeling off five of the next six games to clinch the victory.

While some might have gotten down on themselves and ruled out any hope of making a comeback altogether, Kerber’s self-belief and relentless fighting spirit were enough to earn herself a lifeline back into the match, and she wouldn’t waste this time around. “I know me, and I know that I’m fighting until the last point. I know that I have to also showing sometimes some emotions,” the German told the press.

“I was trying really to focusing on every single point and not thinking about the score, because, yeah, I think that was the key to just going for it and playing like I'm playing.”

“So I was like more, yeah, expecting that I can turn around the match. The first break I was down, but I think I turn around it with my emotion and with my positive thinking after the break.”

Normally, it takes a few rounds for a top player to settle into a tournament, but in Singapore, there are no easy matches from the first match onwards. In the case of Kerber, this tough match was almost a blessing in disguise for the German’s confidence, which has been noticeably been lacking ever since her championship-winning run at Flushing Meadows.

Kerber Talks Pressures as the World Number One

Last October, Kerber left Singapore after failing to advance past the round robin stage for the third consecutive time, with only a single victory to her credit. Had she won a set off former French Open finalist Lucie Safarova in her final round robin tournament of the match, she would have secured a berth in the semifinals (the start of the knockout stages).

12 months on and Kerber has now made a successful return to Singapore, this time as the world number one instead of the world number seven. In what she describes as a totally new and challenging situation, the German was “really happy” with the way she dealt with the expected pressure in her first match of the prestigious year-end championships.

When asked if she felt a sense of relief or confidence after getting the win, the world number one responded, “It’s both. I mean, of course the pressure is there. I feel the pressure. It’s a different situation. I have much more things to do also in the last few days.”

“But it's [a] challenge for me, and I’m really trying to playing my best tennis in the last tournament, in the last week of the year. Of course now I'm a little bit relaxed.”

“It gives me much more confidence to going to the next match after the first win. So I think it starts good for me, this tournament. 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.”