Local favorite Miyu Kato’s fairy-tale run at the Japan Women’s Open ended in heartbreak on Sunday, as the petite 22-year-old suffered a straight-sets defeat in the final against fellow qualifier Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.
Both players were gunning for their first WTA title but Diyas came out on top, the world No. 100 going one better than her runner-up finish in 2014 with a 6-2, 7-5 win in 78 minutes at Ariake Colosseum.
“It was a very tough match and I think we were both a bit tired,” said Diyas. “Miyu played really well and I had to work for every point. I am really happy.
“I have been serving well all of the tournament. I was trying to come in more to the net to make points shorter and it worked.”
Sidelined for a large chunk of last year following left wrist surgery, Diyas earned $43,000 in prize money from the $250,000 purse.
“(Winning the title) means so much to me especially after my surgery last year,” said Diyas. “It was really tough to come back and I am really happy with my title and really happy to play again.”
Diyas broke Kato in the first game and then again in the seventh to take a 5-2 lead, capitalizing on Kato’s second double fault of the match. The 23-year-old then survived break point in the eighth game, taking the first set when Kato could only put her backhand into the net.
Diyas failed to hold serve for the first time and allowed Kato to pull level at 3-3 in the second set, but moved back in control at 6-5 before seeing out the match.
Kato had never gone as far as the quarterfinals at a WTA Tour event before this tournament, and had come back from the brink of defeat to beat Croatia’s Jana Fett in a marathon that lasted nearly three hours in the semis the night before.
“I have played every day without a rest since last Saturday and that is something I have never experienced before,” said Kato, the world No. 171.
“I lost today, but Zarina played really well and I have hopes I can try hard in my next tournament.”
Kato was the first Japanese player to reach the final since Kimiko Date in 2010. Date, 46, played her last game before retiring for a second time earlier in the week here.
In a match that finished just before midnight on Saturday, Shuko Aoyama won the doubles title with Chinese partner Yang Zhaozuan, the pair beating Australians Monique Adamczak and Storm Sanders 6-0, 2-6, 10-5.
In was the second straight Japan Women’s Open doubles title for Aoyama, who teamed up with compatriot Makoto Ninomiya to beat Britain’s Jocelyn Rae and Anna Smith in last year’s final.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5