• Kyodo


American seventh seed Christina McHale claimed the Japan Women’s Open on Sunday for her first WTA tour title, coming back from a set down to beat Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 at a rain-hit Ariake Tennis Forest Park.

World No. 53 McHale was getting pushed all the way and looked headed for a straight-sets defeat against an all-round effort from Siniakova, before the lightest of rains stopped the match when McHale was a break down in the second set at 3-2.

McHale had two breaks after a half-hour hiatus to tie the match before jumping to a 4-0 lead in the final set. The 65th-ranked Siniakova came back with two breaks to close the gap to 5-4, despite limping, but McHale sealed it in 2 hours, 48 minutes.

“It’s so exciting, I really wasn’t expecting this. All my matches were super long and super tough, but I’m so excited it ended with a title,” said McHale, all of whose five matches went to three sets and at least two hours.

Siniakova showed amazing resilience in the first set, returning angled shots from McHale beautifully as she logged 10 winners off her backhand, and she was on course for a deserved win in the second set before the drizzle started.

“I tried to stay closer to the baseline, she was really pushing me back,” said McHale. “She was really dictating at the beginning and I knew if I didn’t change something, she was going to beat me in the second set.”

McHale got a much-needed break to tie 4-4 as four forehand strokes evaded the reach of Siniakova, who, irritated with a string of short breaks to mop up the court, again failed to hold serve to see it tied 1-1.

McHale saved two break points to open the final set before the game was stopped again with weak rain and it haunted Siniakova once more, McHale breaking with a backhand down the line before the Czech headed off the court for treatment.

When play resumed, Siniakova missed successive shots by inches to drop her serve and began to limp. Siniakova, who had 28 winners to McHale’s 15, still clung on as she broke to make it 4-1 before a backhand volley saw her break to pull within a game at 5-4, but couldn’t hold serve, hitting wide on match point.

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