Plucky qualifier Miyu Kato produced an epic comeback to advance to her first WTA Tour final on Saturday night, beating Croatia’s Jana Fett 4-6, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 in the semifinals of the Japan Women’s Open.
Kato, ranked No. 171 in the world, survived match point in the second set before going on to win the 2-hour, 53-minute match at Ariake Colosseum and will now play world No. 100 Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in Sunday’s final of the $250,00 hardcourt event.
Diyas shocked defending champion Christina McHale of the United States in the first semi 6-4, 0-6, 6-3.
After dropping the first set, Kato looked dead and buried as she fell 4-1 behind in the second to the 123rd-ranked Fett, who had stunned top seed Kristina Mladenovic in the first round.
But the 22-year-old from Kyoto came roaring back and after Fett double faulted on match point, won six straight points in the tiebreak to force a decider.
Kato had her work cut out once again as she trailed 3-0 in the final set, but she simply refused to give in and produced an array of dazzling shots, including the forehand that won her the match.
After booking her spot in the final of the event for a second time, Diyas admitted it wasn’t an easy task.
“It was a very tough match today. Christina played really well and I had to work for every point, but I am happy with my game and I think I played really well,” Diyas said.
After falling 2-0 behind, Diyas broke to make it 2-2 when the 62nd-ranked McHale fired a routine shot out with her opponent in no position to make the return.
The pair traded breaks again but McHale handed Diyas the first set with her second double fault of the match.
McHale raced through the second set, evening the match up when Diyas sent her return long, but Diyas turned a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 lead in the final set and secured victory with a forehand that McHale scrambled to, but failed to return.
“I didn’t really think about the score (at 3-1 down in the final set). I was just trying to play every point,” said the 23-year-old Diyas, who was out for seven months last year after undergoing surgery on her left wrist and made her comeback in late February.
“I am really happy to be in the final again. After I had surgery it has been tough to come back but I have a great team supporting me.”
She added: “I am just going to try and play 100 percent in the final and we will see.”
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.