The Slovak Republic have been handed a tricky opening tie to begin their 2014 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group campaign but in Dominika Cibulkova they have a player who thrives on the big stage recently adding a quarterfinal appearance in Melbourne to her already impressive resume.
“I think it’s going to be a thriller and I think it will be a really tough match,” predicted Cibulkova, who holds a record of 17 victories from 26 rubbers in the competition. “I’m happy we play at home, sometimes it is not easy to play at home but I’m ready for really tough matches”
“You never know…it’s from point to point and we will see how they are going to play, how we are going to play…there are so many things that have to come together”
Cibulkova has been a permanent fixture in the Slovak side since she first entered the side as a talented 16-year-old and is now playing in the competition for a tenth season. In 2013 the team reached the semifinal for the first time since winning the competition in 2002 but let the opportunity slip through their grasp to progress further.
“We had a great chance last year in the semifinals we were 2-0 up against Russia and we lost so close so it was heart-breaking that match. I love to play Fed Cup…it’s my favourite, favourite to play Fed Cup but I am always so tired, for like one or two weeks after I’m dead. I take it so emotionally, I put my heart in it and that’s what makes it so tough.”
Growing up, Cibulkova, has fond memories from Davis Cup competition: “I was going to Davis Cup matches when we played at home, when Slovakia [played] America and then they beat Spain, then they went to the Finals against Croatia…for me it is matches I still remember”
She also explained that it was a shame that they won the Fed Cup in 2002 in the same year that the country’s ice hockey team won a gold medal at the World Championships which stole many of the headlines.
Despite her experience in the competition the team can still call on a player who has an even greater depth of knowledge of how to win the title in the form of Daniella Hantuchova, who was a member of the 2002 side.
“I hope I will be 100% and I hope the same for Daniella…she played so many Fed Cups and so many ties so it’s nice to have her in the team”
Cibulkova is aware, however, that to win the competition it takes more than just two players and in Magdalena Rybarikova and Jana Cepelova they have players in the team who are more than capable of stepping up and winning matches.
“With Cepelova, you know, last year in Serbia I collapsed on the court with cramping and so I couldn’t finish the match and then the next day she had to come in and win the deciding point and she did it, she beat Jovanovski – she is a real teammate.”
What of the team’s chances this year? “I think in Fed Cup everything is open, everything can happen so it’s even, we will see”