The spectators who attended today's Bank of the West Classic final got their money's worth, and then some. As for top seed Agnieszka Radwanska: At least part of the time, she must have thought she was gazing into a mirror. Dominika Cibulkova used the drop shot and some extreme angles against Radwanska in ways that were, well, oh so Radwanskan. Cibulkova also brought a fierce forehand and a deft swinging volley, and threw the whole combo at the Polish star, beating her 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
I really enjoyed this match, which lived up to my expectations. Cibulkova had never beaten Radwanska before. In fact, the last time they had played, in Sydney, Radwanska won 6-0, 6-0--one of the freakier scorelines of recent times. I had little doubt that today, win or lose, Cibulkova was going to play at a very high level.
Cibulkova had three break opportunities in the opening set, but was unable to convert them. Radwanska, throughout most of the match, saved break points by hitting really good first serves. In the second set, Cibulkova went up a break point and held onto that lead to force a final set.
In that final set, Cibulkova was twice down a break. When Radwanska went up 4-2, 40-15, there was every indication that she would go up 5-2 and be within reaching distance of the championship, but one of the things that makes tennis so great to watch is that players can make comebacks at the last moment. Cibulkova fought like crazy, broke her opponent, and then won the next three games.
But it wasn't as easy as that last sentence might have made it sound. When the 3rd seed served for the match, she saw four match points disappear. The game, which lasted almost eleven minutes, was an event in itself. Under extreme pressure from Radwanska, Cibulkova made forehand errors on the first three match points, and on her fourth, she was treated to a classic Radwanska drop volley that put the game back at deuce. Radwanska had one break point during the game, but Cibulkova saved it.
Finally, on the fifth match point, the opponents engaged in one of their many tough baseline rallies, and the match ended when Cibulkova hit a screaming backhand winner into the corner of the ad court.
The Stanford title is Cibulkova's third.
Mention should be made of the semifinal match that was played between Radwanska and Jamie Hampton. Hampton was unable to handle the guessing game Radwanska set up for her, and she was done in by the top seed's cleverness. But Hampton had a really good tournament and she's looking especially fit. Hopefully, her fitness regime will help her chronic back problem.
There was a memorable moment in that semifinal when Radwanska (who managed to throw in a squat drop shot during the match) had to run so far after an angled shot hit by Hampton, she struggled not to run right into the stands. But--in typical Radwanska fashion--while she was getting herself on balance, she also managed to hit a crazy angled drop volley winner.
Cibulkova wasn't the only winner, of course. Top seeds Abigail Spears and Raquel Kops-Jones won the doubles title. Spears and Kops-Jones defeated 2nd seeds Julia Goerges and Darija Jurak 6-2, 7-6 in the final.
While they were watching Radwanska, the ESPN commentators did something that's refreshingly new (and which also originated with ESPN commentators): They went through ATP history to sort out which men played the most like Radwanska.
Sexism is so deeply ingrained in all cultures that most people don't even realize how offensive it is to always compare a woman's game with a man's (or to insist that a woman is "copying" a male player), and not the other way around. People have--on a conscious or subconscious level--bought into the lie that sports played by males are "better" than sports played by females. A completely sexist value, this belief makes it acceptable to "compliment" a WTA player by comparing her with an ATP player. Good for ESPN for realizing that it goes both ways.
In Baku, Elina Svitolina won her first WTA title, defeating Shahar Peer 6-4, 6-4. This was Peer's first final in two years. Svitolina, who is 18, is the first teen to win a WTA tournament this year. To get to the final, she took out both the 2nd and 4th seeds. The doubles title went to 2nd seeds Irina Buryachok and Oksana Kalashnikova. They beat Eleni Daniilidou and Aleksandra Krunic 4-6, 7-6, 10-4 in the final. Buryachok won the doubles title last year, too, with partner Valeria Solovyeva.