DOHA — The Qatar Total Open happens to be at the same time this year as another important sporting event: the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Plenty of players are too focused on tennis to pay too much attention, but Dominika Cibulkova has her eye on men's hockey (her fitness coach also works with the team).
Cibulkova also picked alpine skiing as her winter sport of personal choice.
"The regular like downhill [slalom]," Cibulkova said. "Not the crazy one that you go crazy fast like Lindsey Vonn. Not that one. But like a slope. This one I could try."
She even has a pretty legit background in skiing.
"When I was little, my dad he was really good at skiing," Cibulkova said. "So since I was really little, we were skiing, and I loved it. Actually, I wanted to do it like professional, but it's really hard thing in Slovakia with the conditions. So then when I tried my tennis, my parents told me, okay, this would be a better sport for you."
It's safe to say the 28-year-old has made the right choice, and playing in Doha suits her. In five previous appearances, she has reached a quarterfinal and semifinal (last year).
Despite being dealt a very tough draw, Cibulkova kicked the 2018 Qatar Total Open off on Monday with a solid 7-6 (8), 6-4 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
"I came here a little bit earlier, a few days before just to get used to the balls, the courts, to play outside again," Cibulkova said. "I held my nerves in the right moments, and hopefully I'm going to continue. Just I need to get more matches in a row to win, to get the confidence."
Cibulkova saved a set point in the first set, and needed four of her own to close it out.
The Slovak, now ranked No. 30, has been trying to regain the elite form that saw her win the WTA Finals and reach No. 4 in 2016. Wins like the one on Monday will certainly help.
Doha and Dubai rotate categories each year so this season Doha is the higher level (Premier 5) while next week's event in Dubai is the Premier. It partially explains why the draw is so loaded with several former and current No. 1's (Caroline Wozniacki, Simona Halep, Garbine Mugurza, Karolina Pliskova, Angelique Kerber and Maria Sharapova).
Another reason players flock to the capital of Qatar is the unparalleled hospitality. The environment is exemplary with warm weather and a very convenient setup (the newly surfaced courts are just a 5 minute drive—in slick Jaguars—from the luxurious player hotel).
"I haven't seen much from the city. But the tournament is really, really nice," Cibulkova said. "They're taking care of the players. And we love the hotel. We love the site. We have a lot of courts to practice. The surface on the centre court and off courts is the same, so you can practice anywhere, anytime you like. And it's just nice tournament to be [at]."
This Week on Tennis Channel Plus 2/12
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