MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Dominika Cibulkova didn't speak to her parents back in Slovakia before the biggest tennis match of her life. In fact, she hadn't spoken to them for nearly two weeks.
"We were superstitious," she said in her post-match news conference, beaming despite losing the women's final to Li Na 7-6 (3), 6-0 at the Australian Open on Saturday. "I won my first round and I didn't call them." Instead, she sent a text.
Her mother finally called her after the match, too nervous to watch. "She always watches the match after when they show it again," Cibulkova explained.
She may have been the heavy underdog in the final, the pocket-sized baseliner who had never been to a Grand Slam final going up against the 2011 French Open champion and two-time Australian Open finalist from China.
But from the moment she walked out on court at Rod Laver Arena, trying hard to contain her smile as the crowd cheered, she looked as though she was thoroughly enjoying the moment.
In fact, for much of the tight first set, she appeared to be the more relaxed player on the court, running up and down in place before serves, pumping her fists, slapping her thigh to motivate herself.
The No. 20-seeded Cibulkova, the shortest woman in the top 50 at 1.61 meters (5-foot-3), had already played the spoiler several times before in the tournament, beating No. 3-seeded Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, No. 11 Simona Halep in the quarterfinals and then No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska in the semifinals.