One more to watch: Dominika Cibulkova

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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I think we've spotted another shooting star on the WTA Tour. And that would be Dominika Cibulkova.

The sturdy 5-foot-3, 120-pounder opened 2008 at No. 52 in the world, but has shot all the way up to the Top 20...No. 20 to be specific. She actually got as high as No. 19 in August, and is at No. 17 in the WTA's Race to the Championships.

Cibulkova is one of two Slovakians in the Top 20, with Daniela Hantuchova (14th) being the other.

There are no other Slovaks inside the Top 50.

The 19-year-old Piestany native/Bratislava resident has quietly tallied 39 match wins this year (39-26), including victories in 14 of her last 22 outings. She reached her first career finals this season, losing to former No. 1 Russian Maria Sharapova at Amelia Island and red-hot Russian Dinara Safina in Montreal, where she surprised the likes of Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva in the second round, former Top-10 Russian Nadia Petrova in the third, current world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic in the quarterfinals and 2007 Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli in the semis to propel herself into the Top 20 for the first time in her young career.

Wow...that was some week for her!

Dominika Cibulkova has been a two-time finalist on the WTA Tour this year.
And en route to the title match at Amelia Island, Cibulkova upended fellow rising star Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, Top-10 performer Anna Chakvetadze and former world No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo, who's a woeful 0-3 against the ever- improving Slovak for the year.

Then, just last week in Moscow, Cibulkova topped yet another former top-ranked star, French Open champion and Aussie Open runner-up Ana Ivanovic, to reach no less than her seventh quarterfinal of '08.

Cibulkova, whose preferred surfaces are clay and hardcourt, first got everyone's attention back in February by subduing former Top-10 Swiss Patty Schnyder in a second-rounder and then Wimbledon champ Venus Williams in the third round on some hard stuff in Doha, the site of this year's season-ending Championships.

Unfortunately for the tenacious Slovakian, she was just 4-4 at the majors this year, including opening-round setbacks at the Aussie Open and Wimbledon. But she did reach the third round at the French and U.S. Opens and the Olympic Games. She also advanced to the third round in Paris last season.

The bubbly Cibulkova, who's been playing tennis since the age of seven and is coached by Vladimir Platenik, joined the professional ranks back in 2004 and has been steadily progressing ever since. She closed out 2005 at No. 555 before shooting all the way up to No. 156 by the end of 2006, No. 52 by the end of last year, and to her current perch at No. 20.

She soared as high as No. 3 at the junior level back in 2005, and most figured she would make some noise at the next level.

I don't know if Cibulkova, who is idle this week due to an upper respiratory tract infection, has quite enough game to get inside the Top 5, but the Top 10 should become a reality for the blossoming star in the very near future.

Move on ova for Cibulkova.

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Scott Riley
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