Monday, 21 April 2014 | MYT 6:32 PM
Vekic looking ahead after breakthrough win
Seventeen-year-old Donna Vekic was superb in beating world No.10 Dominika Cibulkova for the Malaysian Open title. - filepic
KUALA LUMPUR: A breakthrough in the BMW Malaysian Open has boosted Croatian Donna Vekic’s confidence to move forward in her tennis career.
And don’t be a surprised if the teenager breaks into the world top 10 sooner than expected.
On Sunday, the 17-year-old Vekic played one of her best tennis to stun world No. 10 and top seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4) in a nail-biting final that lasted for two hours and 50 minutes at the Royal Selangor Golf Club.
It was her first WTA Tour title – and it came with a big pay cheque of US$43,000 (RM130,000). It was also her first win over a top 10 player in the world.
Based on her gutsy display on Malaysian soil, the sweet Vekic showed that she certainly has plenty more to offer to spice up the women’s tennis.
Had Vekic lost on Sunday, the 25-year-old Cibulkova would overtaken Russia’s Maria Sharapova at No. 9 in the world rankings.
Following her memorable outing here, Vekic has immediately changed her target for this year.
“This is my first win over a top 10 player. I started the year hoping to make the top 50 in the world rankings. But now, after winning here, I have to change that goal,” said Vekic, who is the current world No. 95.
“I can’t give you a number right now (on the target) ... but I can only promise that there will be much more to come from me.”
Vekic, who lost her two previous finals – in Birmingham (2013) and Tashkent (2012) – said that Malaysia will always have a special place in her heart.
“The win here means a lot to me – especially when my opponent has been in good form (Cibulkova won her fourth WTA title in Acapulco last month and made heads turn with her fantastic run at the Australian Open where she finished runner-up in January).
“She played incredible tennis and it just felt good to win against her.”
The Croatian, however, agreed that she should learn to be more calm during tense situations if she hopes to continue beating world class players.
Against Cibulkova, she blew seven match points in the third set while holding a 5-1 lead.
“I need to be more mature in my game – especially during important moments and when serving for the championship. I need to be calmer during those times. This is something I have to work on,” said Vekic.
While players like Vekic and those from other countries continue to make their marks here, it is quite sad to see a lack of Malaysian talents coming through.
Perhaps they can draw some inspiration from players like Vekic and have more belief in themselves – that nothing is impossible if they put their heart and soul into it.