November 19, 2008

Dominika Cibulková

(info about Dominika Cibulková)

The training of a rising player

Thomas Kieller

Dominika Cibulková: Victory.

Once more a fresh wind sweeps on the Women’s Tennis Association circuit and this time the breeze is all Slovak. Dominika is on the circuit since a few years ago and her progression is dazzling, going from the 500th place to the top 20 of the world ranking. Her progression is the reflection of her tireless work, her desire to improve herself and her strong character. Not as tall as a typical professional player, she is obviously in a pretty good form. Energetic and explosive, she moves quickly on the court. Furthermore, the player of Bratislava has no worries when she is implicated in a three set match. Truly a baseliner, she plays her game well during long exchanges. With her quickness and her fighting spirit, she continually tries to destabilize her opponent in order that she cannot make her best shots. When the match turns to her advantage, the young Slovak raises her left fist high. However, her recent successes make her sometimes nervous during important matches. No doubt that she will find a way to improve her game in those crucial moments. For the time being, she offers a captivating game and her supporters appreciate it because of her talent, determination and good mood. And Dominika will not stop there… Her aims push her to higher level!

The phone-interview took place on July 28, 2008 at 13:25 after Dominika defeated easily the Russian Elena Vesnina by the score of 6-1, 6-1 in the Rogers Cup tournament of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in Montreal, Canada.

Physical training of a tennis player

Thomas Kieller: In tennis, you have to be in shape to play at the top level… Do you give much importance to your physical conditioning?

Dominika Cibulková: Oh yes! On the tour, there are some really good players… So, if I want to win, I need to be fit and be well prepared to play those long rallies of three sets. I have to be ready for them and I do so by training a lot. The physical conditioning for tennis is really a big part of my preparation for a tournament.

Thomas: With your physical trainer Maroš Molnár, on what physical aspects do you focus on?

Dominika: We do a lot of things such as power and running exercises. We do sprints and we run sometimes 30 minutes to one hour in the mountains. Before the tournament in Montreal, I was in the United States where I trained one week in the mountains. There, I worked on my physical preparation with Maroš. He coaches hockey and soccer players. So, I did fitness with them. It’s really good for me because I can improve a lot.

Thomas: Do you like to workout in altitude?

Dominika: Yes, in the mountains there is nothing disturbing you. No press, no friends or whatever. You just focus on your preparation and it has really helped me a lot.

Thomas: And do you work a lot in a gym? What do you do there?

Dominika: Yes, I train in a gym. When I’m home, I obviously do tennis practices, but also I work on my fitness once a day, minimum. However, there is nothing for me as far as heavy weights are concerned. We do a lot of different exercises with a ball, for my flexibility, etc. But like I said nothing really heavy.

Thomas: Do you like to work in a gym or you do it by obligation?

Dominika: I like it when there are some variations. So obviously, we are changing the exercises. I like also to change places, so we are training outdoors when there is nice weather. And yes, for playing tennis at a professional level, I have to like it.

Thomas: You are not considered the most powerful player on the circuit. You give an edge to your opponents concerning that aspect. But we know you are still young… Is it something that you will try to improve?

Dominika: Well, my game is based on a long rally and I play more on the baseline and with speed. My opponent does not like it usually because she does not have time to play her good shots. This is my playing style. Of course, I really want to improve some aspects of my game such as my serve. I have a lot of things to learn.

I know it’s important to have power and to be fit in order to be able to go through a three set match. But tennis is a whole thing, meaning there are physical and technical aspects.

Thomas: Like you said, we know that you are quite fast on the court. Running, is it something you prefer to do?

Dominika: Yes, it’s something I have naturally. I’m really fast, but still I have to work on it. I cannot just stop doing it. We do a lot of exercises for running such as sprints.

Thomas: You told me you are training with soccer players who are athletes who focus a lot on their cardio, so what do you do for your endurance?

Dominika: We run, we go on the bicycle and also we go ice skating.

Thomas: Is it something you enjoy to surpass yourself physically?

Dominika (laughs when talking about her long running sessions): Yes and of course there are some exercises which are my favourites. Some others, I like less such as running 45 minutes in a row. Nevertheless, I don’t have a problem to do this because I know it is important to me. I really need to be fit on the court.

Thomas: We know that your sport is definitively tennis, but do you practice other sports or activities to improve your form or just for relaxing?

Dominika: I really like water skiing and also alpine skiing. These are my two favourite sports besides tennis.

Technical aspect of playing tennis and Dominika’s improvement

Thomas: For a tennis player, an important thing is to spend a lot of time on the court. How much time do you spend on a court to hit balls?

Dominika: When I am home practicing, I’m doing on, a typical day, three to four hours of tennis. On the court, I play with my coach and with other guys. It is an important part of my game. Then, I have two fitness training sessions.

Thomas: Your coach Vladimir Platenik is currently focusing with you on what right now?

Dominika: Currently, we are more focusing about tactics because it is what I want to improve in my game. So, we are working on what I should do on the court, analysing what my opponent hits better and what are my better options. It is what we do the most now and what we are talking about.

Thomas: Do you work also with him on a specific technical aspect?

Dominika: Yes, there are a lot of things I can do better. Now, I work on my serves, precisely my first serve, but we work also on other things such as my returns.

Thomas: Is there something you would like to improve in your playing style?

Dominika: On some occasions, I know I should play more aggressively. Sometimes, I am behind the baseline and it’s why I’m losing the matches. I have to focus on that, playing fast and on the baseline.

Thomas: You are known for your combativeness and tenacity, are you especially proud of that?

Dominika: Yes, I won a lot of matches because I fight even when I’m not playing well. I just go for every ball. With that attitude, you can win big matches and it is important because in the next round you can improve your game. And then, you can have a good result in the tournament.

Thomas: Since 2005, you have climbed up the Women's Tennis Association ranking progressively (2005: 555; 2006: 156; 2007: 51 and currently in July 2008, you are 31) and now you are knocking at the door of the top 20. So, you are doing something right! Now, do you feel a greater pressure?

Dominika: Well yes and I feel I have more respect. However, now it is tougher because everybody expects that I will beat all the girls that are behind me… I am currently ranked 31, so it is really tough. Of course, it gives me pressure, but I cannot take this way. The girls who are in the top 100 are playing pretty well, so I have to focus in all my matches and keep working to improve my game.

Thomas: Can you tell me a little bit about the difference between a top 10 player and a top 100 player?

Dominika: Of course! When you play somebody from the top 10, that player will give you few opportunities in a match even if you are playing well. If it happens, you have to take the risk otherwise the top level player will get the upper hand and then you will have no chance to win. In brief, the best players focus on every ball and they don’t give up easily. They give you only a few chances which you have to take immediately.

Thomas: You came pretty close to winning your first WTA tournament at the Bausch & Lomb Champ’s in April 2008, but you lost in two sets against Maria Sharapova. Is there something intimidating to play against the best players?

Dominika: You must know that this final you are referring to was really my worst match of the Bausch & Lomb tournament. I was just asleep and I was not feeling good on the court. I was not fighting for every ball because in a certain way I was just simply happy to be in the finals. Nevertheless, I played Maria Sharapova again in Rome. For this match it was pretty close. I lost the third set 6-4. So, I just have to believe in myself, go on the court with a good attitude and try to win the match.

Thomas: Yes, you are getting used to overcome top level players. You have already beaten Nadia Petrova, Patty Schnyder, Venus Williams and Anna Chakvetadze…

Dominika: I feel that I can beat the best girls when I am playing well. Everything is in your head. So, you have to believe in yourself and say you can do it.

Thomas: You are one of the girls who has done the most tours in the last year, around 27. With the numerous tournaments and all the training, will you still be able to deliver exciting and fast matches to the public?

Dominika: Oh 27! Well, I was playing all these tournaments because I wanted to get a better ranking. But now that I am higher in the ranking, I will do a different schedule for the next year. I can choose a little bit more the tournaments I want to play. So, yes, I hope I will give good matches!

Thomas: Thank you Dominika.