Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia celebrates after beating Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia during their singles match at the WTA tennis tournament in Singapore, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Wong Maye-E
By Sandra Harwitt
October 29, 2016

SINGAPORE (AP) Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia rolled to the ground in celebration after taking her debut at the WTA Finals all the way to the championship match with a 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 semifinal victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova on Saturday.

''I'm just so excited,'' said Cibulkova, after winning in 2 hours, 27 minutes. ''This is my first time here, playing finals now, and playing such a great match against Sveta.

''For me, it's one of my dreams come true and it's just incredible.''

At the end, Kuznetsova did not wait at the net for the traditional handshake as Cibulkova celebrated her victory. Cibulkova then approached the already seated Kuznetsova, but the handshake offered by the Russian appeared lackluster.

Cibulkova, who reached the 2014 Australian Open final, played down the exchange.

''I saw her on her bench so I went there to shake hands,'' Cibulkova said. ''Sometimes you can get upset after the match and that's normal. We are fine, but we are not like best friends on the tour. It wasn't like we're going to hug each other, but it was OK.''

Cibulkova holds a 6-3 winning record over Kuznetsova, and has now won their last six matches. She is the second consecutive player to reach the year-end final having come out of the round-robin stage with a 1-2 result.

Defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska, who faced top-seeded Angelique Kerber in Saturday's other semifinal, won the title from a 1-2 finish in the round-robin last year.

Cibulkova was named the 2016 WTA Comeback Player of the Year, having improved from a No. 38 year-end ranking in 2015 to No. 8 this week. In 2015, she missed four months of the season after undergoing Achilles surgery.

Cibulkova was almost non-existent in the first set and Kuznetsova didn't offer a break-point opportunity.

The second set featured six service breaks, but it was Cibulkova who took the tiebreaker by repeated smart-shot placement against her opponent.

Kuznetsova looked on the way to the finals with a 4-2 lead in the dramatic third set, but Cibulkova refused to fold.

From 4-4, Cibulkova saved two break points on her serve in the ninth game, and then captured the first match point at 30-40 when Kuznetsova's forehand clipped the net and sailed wide.

''Whatever it is, I'm not going to put any excuses,'' Kuznetsova said. ''I just did all I could, and I went short a little bit in the end.''

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