Returning from a wrist injury which kept her out of action for half a year, Zarina Diyas continues her impressive comeback with a triumph at the Japan Women’s Open Tennis, her first ever WTA title in her career.
The Kazakh defeated home favorite Miyu Kato, who reached her first WTA final in front of her supportive home fans. Both players came through qualifying and defeated seeded players along the way, but their amazing runs brought them one bad news: an automatic withdrawal from the qualifying rounds of the Toray Pan Pacific Open, which was held on the same grounds.
Finding herself just outside the top-200 of the rankings back in April, Diyas will now rise into the top-70 with her incredible run here, having to win eight consecutive matches to come through the qualifying rounds and claim the title. It has also been an incredible tournament for Kato, who has not reached a WTA quarterfinal before this week. The Japanese will be at a career-high ranking of 123 when the updated rankings are released tomorrow.
Diyas strolls to claim the first set
Both players had a contrasting start to the final as Diyas came out firing while Kato seemed to be largely affected by the pressure, considering most of the crowd were rooting for her. A forehand sent into the net gave Diyas the first breakthrough in the match, allowing the Kazakhstani to take the early lead.
Kato soon settled into the encounter, producing some solid service holds to keep the scores tight but Diyas did not seem like she was going to slip up anytime soon. Playing some very consistent tennis, the higher-ranked player powered herself to another break of serve right at the eleventh hour with the help of her precise forehands. Serving for the first set, Diyas did not disappoint her fans as she fended off a break point to close out the set 6-2, edging closer to the win.
Kato puts up a tough fight but Diyas was just too strong
After a tight start to the second set, it was once again Diyas who drew the first blood and made the first breakthrough, jumping out to a lead of a set and a break. However, Kato benefitted from some unforced errors as the world number 100 played her worst game of the match to gift back the break immediately, hitting a rare forehand unforced error to return level.
Both of them seemed really consistent on their serves from then onwards, with no break points surfacing in the next couple of games. Just when it mattered the most, Kato failed to find her first serves and Diyas stepped up her return game to break serve at 5-5, blasting a forehand return winner to earn the golden opportunity to serve for the title. Despite facing the pressure, Diyas showed some nerves of steel to successfully hold her serve comfortably, with Kato sending a forehand long on match point.
It was a relatively high-quality contest with Diyas hitting an incredible 27 winners to go along with just 12 unforced errors in this 79-minute encounter. Kato did not perform too bad either, and she was obviously the more defensive of the two as she ended up with 13 winners and six unforced errors.