Diminutive Dominika Cibulkova is determined to prove that her pocket rocket status is no hindrance to top tennis when the Slovak faces China’s Li Na on Saturday for the title at the Australian Open.
Searching for a maiden grand slam title, Cibulkova has a height of 1.61m, while Li, playing her third final at the event from the past four editions, is more than 10cm taller and also won the French Open in 2011.
Cibulkova is not bothered by either the height or the experience gap.
“Even if you are tall, it doesn’t mean that you are 100 per cent going to make it, you just have to really want something and just believe. There is nothing more important than this,” she said.
Cibulkova, who defeated former Wimbledon finalist and fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the semifinals, said that her enthusiasm level has been amped up throughout her career.
“I’ve had it since I was a little kid. When I play my best tennis, that’s where you can see the power and the fight. You have to have something extra if you want to be one of the best tennis players and you are not the tallest. This is my extra,” she said.
“The tournament is long, it’s two weeks. But if you take it step by step, you give all in these two weeks, then you can enjoy (it).” The number 24 Eastern European has lost all four of her matches with Li, most recently a Canadian Open quarter-final in 2013.
But that’s just another challenge for Cibulkova.
“She’s been in the finals of Grand Slam many times and has already won one. I’m playing this final, so that’s something beautiful,” said Cibulkova when asked about Li.
“It’s like a dream. So I will go just out there and play my best, try to do my best. I want to be 100 per cent, it will be the biggest match of my life.” The Slovak has lost just 26 games on her road to the final, winning all but one of her matches in straight sets.
Li feels she will be ready as she attempts to win a second major: “She has pretty fast legs on the court and she’s a hitter. We play pretty similar. It will be a tough match, another challenge.
“I feel the same pressure as last year, you never know what happens during the match. I think I’m ready. I think both should be ready.
After six matches, everyone has more confidence to prepare for the final.”