Slovakian underdog Dominika Cibulkova stunned fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska Thursday, losing just three games to storm into an Australian Open final against China's Li Na.
Melbourne: The 20th seed was in inspired form to rip the Pole to shreds 6-1, 6-2 and not only make her first Grand Slam final in 26 attempts but also become the first player from her country to get so far.
"Aga is an unbelievable player and I expected a tough match. I just knew I had to go for my shots," said the 24-year-old, who has won three career singles titles, including at Stanford last year where she beat Radwanska in the final.
Dominika Cibulkova after her win. Pic/ AFP
"I had so many thoughts in my head (during the match) but just focused on my game. I can't believe I'm in a final."
On paper, Poland's Radwanska was the clear favourite after beating the Slovak, an old foe she has been playing since they were nine years old, in five of their six WTA meetings.
But she was a shadow of the player that beat two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals, unable to get in her groove on Rod Laver Arena with Cibulkova hardly putting a foot wrong.
It was another wasted opportunity for Radwanska, who has reached the quarter-finals or better in each of the last four years at Melbourne Park but has failed to push on to the final.
Before her win on Thursday, Cibulkova had been to the semis of a Grand Slam once before, five years ago as a 19-year-old at the French Open.
The short but punchy 20th seed, who ended Maria's Sharapova's tournament in the fourth round, said before the match that she was now more mature and ready to take the next step.
She showed her intent from the word go, caressing the ball to all corners of the court as she got off to the best possible start by breaking the Pole's first service game.
Cibulkova held serve when Radwanska smashed a backhand wide before the fifth seed got into the game by winning her own serve.
The Slovak needed to dig deep to keep her advantage by saving five break points on her next serve, as Radwanska pressed hard.
But the inspired Cibulkova raced to a 4-1 lead when Radwanska hit a feeble backhand into the net.
The Pole was making a flurry of unforced errors and was unable to make the most of any opportunities, with Cibulkova breaking again and wrapping up the set in 37 minutes.
It didn't get any better in the second set for Radwanska. She was broken immediately to go 2-0 down on a forehand crosscourt return, and then blew three break point chances in the fourth game.
The misery got worse as she dropped 3-0 behind and with the reward of a Grand Slam final now in her sights, Cibulkova held steady to take the match, falling to the court in celebration as Radwanska rushed back to the locker room in shock.
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