about me / BIOGRAPHY
For the first time, Dominika Cibulkova played tennis in the age of seven, when she took two weeks tennis course in Piešťany, Slovakia. After that, she did not play for a year. Though her parents wanted her to play tennis ever since her childhood, they did not mean to guide their child towards the professional career. Just like other children, Dominika tried many sports.
“I was trying to go for swimming. I also wanted water-skiing, I was ready to water-ski for night and day. But my daddy, a water-ski coach, told me we do not have good conditions for this sport here in Slovakia,” Domi confessed. She even had her own ice-skating period of life. “I wanted figure-skating, but I was put off by the timing of the trainings. I had to get up at six and it was still so dark then. So I told myself I just wasn’t capable of this,” Dominika smiles.
Lacko’s father got me there
Dominika’s first steps towards tennis are, in fact, the job of Ladislav Lacko, father of the Slovak tennis player Lukas Lacko. Ladislav Lacko worked as a tennis course coach, and once he asked Dominika’s father Milan to assign his daughter to the course. “He was such a pleasant, laid-back person and he really had a gift of working with kids. I had trainings once or twice a week and every day during the summer holidays.” Dominika loved tennis a lot, she even wanted to work harder than other children. When she was nine years old, she changed the institution and joined the Tennis Club in Piestany. She had to change it, because there was a competition “Searching for the young Olympic players.” (in original: “Hľadáme mladých olympionikov, HTO). The condition of participation in the competition was to be registered in the Tennis Club Piešťany.
First bagel from an opponent
Tennis bagels are nothing exceptional in the life of tennis player, but she remembers her first one especially well. “It was my first HTO tournament. I remember it was really horrible, such a public humiliation,” Domi smiles. Though she was mad about tennis, she was one of the weakest players in her grade. Most children started to play when they were four or five, but Dominika started no sooner than at the age of seven. But the defeat 0:6 did not put her off. Quite the contrary: she decided to work even harder and indeed, that was what she really did. “I remember that my parents felt that I was just a child playing for fun, they did not see my future in tennis. It was not the point of my interest to be the best. I just played and I really loved it. My loses did not make me cry.”
They found her a personal coach
When Dominika’s parents realized that their daughter really loved tennis and that she needed to improve, they decided to get her a personal coach. “In the club, she was training in the fourth, weakest group. For many times, we had tried to ask the Tennis Club to upgrade her, but it just wasn’t possible. All the children had the same coach, but we also got her a boy for the private lessons. And it was also because they did not count on her anymore by the time she was 11,” Dominika’s mother, Katarína Cibulková, is recollecting the past.
She left for the Czech Republic with her father
As Dominika could not continue her training in Piešťany, her father Milan drove her to Morava, Rožnov pod Radhoštěm, where she lived with the family of her coach, Jan Kavan. She also went to school there. Her father drove her there every Monday and back every Friday. “First I liked it, but then I started to feel homesick. I did not have friends and there was nobody to meet. I cried that I wasn’t at home.” Domi was able to stay in Morava no longer than for a year: she was just an eleven year-old girl at the time. When she came back, her parents had to think about her future.
Joining Slovan at the cost of 40 thousand Slovak crowns
After leaving Czech Republic, Mr and Mrs Cibulka asked the sports club Slovan about the opportunity for their daughter to join the club and to continue her career there. Interesting fact is that the Tennis Club Piešťany could only let her go at the cost of 40 thousand crowns. As Slovan was not ready to pay, Dominika’s parents had to pay on their own expense. Dominika understood the problem and she was ready to prove that she was worth the price. She was fighting hard to get somewhere, she won the first tournament and as a winner, she had to travel to Bahamas. Though she was still one of the outsiders, she really craved to win and to travel. And what is incredible, she really did it.
She had to prove her qualities
Though Dominika won the tournament, the coaches considered her results just a lucky accident. “Though she won the Slovak Championship for the players up to 12, they told her that was a good job, but in two years she would not get a chance. However, she was still improving, until, among the players up to 14, she reached a career high position no. 3. Only Azarenka and Cirstea were better than her. But the coaches told us again that she would not get better later, that those were her last glory days,” Dominika’s parents say. Her height was supposed to be her greatest handicap. But Dominika was also doing well at the junior championships. Still, her results were considered to be the miracle. They said she would not get a chance among the adults. And she did it again.
First big money
Dominika earned her first money when she was 15. It was November and they were in tournament in Průhonice, Czech Republic. Dominika was playing the qualification and she lost in the finals. But she still managed to earn few dollars. They were already leaving the tournament when her mother said: ”Hey, Dominika, go and get your money. You have earned a few dollars.” ”Dominika looked at me and asked: hey mum, you really think we get paid for this? Then we really had a good laugh and she bought something nice for her for the money,” Dominika’s mother remembers. But Dominika will never forget the reward she got after the final loss at ITF tournament in Rabat, Morroco, in 2005. “I earned almost one thousand dollars. I put the money on my bed, spread them all over it, and took a picture, because it was my first big money and I was enjoying it immensely. I started to realize that I was going to get paid for playing tennis.”
Kim Clijsters is her idol
All the sportsmen have their inspiring idols they want to reach. There is also a tennis player Domi highly respects: it is the former Belgium world top player Kim Clijsters. “When I played in my first tournament in Miami she was there. And she was really nice and pleasant and normal. She saw in the cloakroom, I was really confused, so she came to me and asked me about many things, and I was so impressed I felt even more lost... Other players were only watching us. She was really so pleasant, so normal, so sensitive.”