MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova is confident she can win a grand slam title one day as her run to the Australian Open final showed she can adapt her game to all surfaces.
The 24-year-old, the first Slovakian woman to reach a grand slam singles final, was beaten 7-6(3) 6-0 by China’s Li Na in the final on Saturday.
But having taken Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska out en route, the 20th seed said she was knocking on the door.
“I’m 24 years old and I have already played in a grand slam final,” she told reporters. “I feel like my game is there to challenge the biggest names and to beat them, so why not (win a grand slam)?
“When you play a grand slam final, it’s a big step. I’m ready to take it. I was waiting for this for a long time. Now I want to do 100 percent to keep it up.
“It changes the way you see yourself. Now I know I’m 100 percent sure I can do it. I get so much confidence from this tournament.
“I don’t want to see it as a pressure. I want to keep going like that. I already did well before at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, so I can play on every surface.”
Cibulkova looked a little tight early on but after falling an early break down at 3-1, she leveled at 4-4.
With Li making uncharacteristic mistakes on her forehand, Cibulkova saved a breakpoint to lead 5-4 and even when she was broken for 6-5, she hit right back to force a tiebreak.
But former French Open champion Li, the fourth seed, lifted her game to win the tiebreak 7-3 and then eased through the second set to clinch the title.
Cibulkova said Li’s greater weight of shot made the difference.
“She was the one who was dictating the game,” she said. “My serve wasn’t really working, so she could push me from the first balls and I was under pressure all the time.
“Sometimes I caught myself running one meter behind the baseline. That’s not how I play. This is why she was better.”
Cibulkova said the disappointment of not making more history for her country was outweighed by her efforts over the past two weeks.
“Maybe tomorrow morning I will be 100 percent proud of myself,” she said, with a smile. “But now it’s just maybe like 50 percent.
“It was my first grand slam final and I’m just proud with the way I handled it.
“I wanted to play my best tennis (but) it wasn’t easy against her because she was playing extremely well. So I’m quite happy.”
Editing by Pritha Sarkar