Dominika Cibulkova claimed her first grass-court title after defeating Karolina Pliskova 7-5 6-3 to be crowned 2016 Aegon International champion.
Cibulkova collected the $132,550 winner’s cheque and set herself up for a strong Wimbledon performance with a first-round clash against Croatian veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.
After a week of temperamental weather that saw most of Monday rained off, the Slovak star dominated her taller opponent:
“It was an extremely tough match today, with the conditions and with the wind it was really tough to play and stay focused.”
“I found the rhythm and stayed in the rallies and I was feeling good on court and knew what I had to do”, Cibulkova told BBC Two.
Cibulkova was somewhat of an outside favourite pre-tournament, but her strength of play has grown throughout after confident victories over Agnieszka Radwanska and Monica Puig.
“It was a great week for me. I love to play on the centre court here in Eastbourne. This crowd here are very nice – they are different to the other crowds.”
Cibulkova won the first set on a fourth break against Pliskova, who heads into Wimbledon with a title in Nottingham and the Eastbourne runner-up slot.
Pliskova went down a break for 1-3 in the second set and was unable to close the gap back.
Cibulkova was not without pressure during her service games, but she appeared attuned to Pliskova’s struggle with the strong crosswinds, breaking in the fourth game of the final set.
The world #12 saved two break points in the final set, just as Pliskova was finding her stride, before holding to lead 4-1 and held two match points at 5-3.
Cibulkova won of the respect of the Eastbourne crowd through her gusty delay, and thanked them after the match:
“It feels great when people like me and cheer for me it gives me an extra feeling. I will be back here next year that is for sure.”