'Pocket rocket' Cibulková defies doubters to show sky's the limit

    Cibulkova beats top-ranked Kerber to win year-end title
    Cibulkova beats top-ranked Kerber to win year-end title

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      Cibulkova beats top-ranked Kerber to win year-end title

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    Cibulkova beats top-ranked Kerber to win year-end title 01:23

    Story highlights

    • Dominika Cibulková beats world No.1 Angelique Kerber to win WTA finals
    • Moves to top five for first time ever, taking home $2M prize
    • Just 5ft 3in tall, tells CNN she's happy to motivate smaller players

    (CNN)As the ball glanced fortuitously off the top of the net, Dominika Cibulková was already falling to the ground in tears of elation.

    Three Championship points had passed her by, but after continuing to hustle and harry, the Slovak reaped the rewards -- stunning world No. 1 Angelique Kerber to take the biggest title of her career.
      They had said she was too small to play tennis, but the 5-foot 3-inch "Pocket Rocket" would soon be standing tall with the Billie Jean King trophy in her hands. King, a pioneering giant of the women's game, is just over an inch taller.
      "It's hard to describe it with words," Cibulkova told CNN. "It just feels great and I've never been so happy in my life. Amazing!"

      Motivation

      Cibulková has always been a fighter.
      In an age where height and power dominates, she has defied the odds from the start -- admitting after the match that some had sought to turn her away from the game growing up.
      "They underestimated me. I really wanted to play tennis -- nobody could tell me different."
      Ranked 66th at the start of the year, it's been a long road to the top. Martina Navratilova, an eight-time winner of the WTA showpiece event, has remarked that the only time Cibulková stops working hard is when she's asleep -- something the 27-year-old attests to.
      "I think she's right; I have to put something extra into my game and into my tennis to beat the taller girls," said Cibulkova, who is five inches shorter than Sunday's opponent Kerber, and 10 below 6' 1" Karolina Pliskova, the tallest player in the top 10.
      "My height -- this is something I deal with, and I'm happy to be the motivation for other people like me."

      The sky's the limit

      The plucky Cibulková hit 28 winners and just 14 unforced errors on her way to becoming the first WTA finals debutant to take the title since Petra Kvitova in 2011.
      After neutralizing the renowned Kerber return with an 83% first-serve percentage, Monday's rankings see her move into the top five for the first time ever.
      "Right now I'm in the state of mind where I really believe in myself," Cibulková says. "I just really believe that I can be -- that I am -- one of the best tennis players in the world.
      "And I want to continue; I just want to see where I can get with this attitude. Hopefully I can get even further."