Sport Tennis Cibulkova revelling in underdog status

Cibulkova revelling in underdog status

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Rankings, reputations and stature mean little to diminutive Dominika Cibulkova, who has already ripped up the script on the way to the Australian Open final at Melbourne Park.

Drawing inspiration from Marion Bartoli’s fairytale Wimbledon win, Cibulkova is vowing to add her own chapter to the tennis record books against Li Na on Saturday night.

Cibulkova is bidding to become Slovakia’s first grand slam singles champion and, after cutting higher-ranked rivals Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep down to size, the 161cm seed slayer is revelling in her underdog status ahead of her showdown with China’s three-time finalist.

“It’s not about how tall are you,” said Cibulkova, the shortest woman in the world’s top 100.

“It’s just you have to really want something and just believe in it. There is nothing more important than this.

“I have it since I was little kid. When I play my best tennis, that’s where you can see the power and the fight.”

Great friends with Bartoli, Cibulkova said the Frenchwoman’s unlikely triumph last year at the All England Club had fuelled her belief that she should dare to dream.

“Yeah, when she won it, I knew like everything is possible,” Cibulkova said.

“Straight after my semi-final, she came into the gym to me. She hugged me. We were both crying. She was so happy for me.

“You need to be 100 per cent sure you can do it, and yes I am.”

Up against the world No.4, Cibulkova insists rankings don’t matter.

“This top-10 talk, I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” the 24-year-old said.

Nor is a none-from-four record against her final foe any cause for concern.

“She been in the finals of grand slam many times. She already won a grand slam, so she knows how it is,” Cibulkova said.

“I’m playing finals, so that’s something beautiful. It’s like a dream.

“So I will go just out there and play my best, try to do my best.

“It will be the biggest match of my life, but I will not go on the court (feeling) like that.

“There is no pressure. I’m playing finals, so there is nothing better.”

Li, too, has history at stake.

The 31-year-old is hoping to become the oldest women’s champion in Australia since Margaret Smith Court in 1973.

“It would mean a lot,” Li said.

The 2011 French Open champion had the same chance last year, but lost the final in three sets to Victoria Azarenka.

She suffered a similar fate from one set up against Kim Clijsters in 2011.

“The third time, so pretty close to the trophy,” Li said.

The fourth seed hasn’t come close to dropping a set since saving match point against Lucie Safarova in round three.

“I was really feeling after the match I was getting a second life in this tournament,” Li said.

A second shot this year, but maybe also the last forever.

“The body is more important,” Li said.

“I cannot promise I will play another three or four years.”