Miyu Kato insists she has left her court rage in New York for good and was gracious in defeat on Sunday after a heartbreaking loss to Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas in the Japan Women’s Open final.
Kato admitted to doing some soul-searching after going berserk following her failure to make the main draw last month at the U.S. Open and paid full credit to Diyas, who denied her a first WTA Tour title with a 6-2, 7-5 win at Ariake Coliseum.
Frustrated at being broken during the second set of a third-round qualifying loss to Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson in New York, the 22-year-old whacked a ball clean out of the arena before things escalated after the defeat.
Seemingly unable to contain her anger, she unleashed another shot that smashed a hole in the digital scoreboard and left the venue with her racket still mangled from hammering it against the court.
“At the U.S. Open I behaved badly because I could not control my emotions, but this week I knew I had to sort out my feelings out and properly reflect,” said Kato.
“I think I have turned over a new leaf. I lost today but I did not have any of those raging feelings. All credit to my opponent (Diyas) because she really played well today.
“All of the people around me, coaches, my parents and relatives had words with me (about my behavior) and I told myself that I needed to find a new me.”
And a “new me” is exactly what Kato found, the petite Kyoto native winning through three qualifiers and four matches in the main draw en route to her first WTA Tour final.
Ranked 171st in the world, Kato reached the showcase match after coming back from the dead in a marathon three-set semifinal win against Croat Jana Fett, but was loath to admit that had taken its toll.
“I don’t really like to say it myself but I didn’t sleep until just after 2 a.m. and when I woke up this morning I was thinking this is the worst because my body was so heavy. My legs were really feeling it,” said Kato.
“It was my first time in the final of a WTA tournament but there were no nerves. Physically it was really hard but I left everything out there on the court. I battled hard and have no regrets.”
Kato, who stunned fourth-seeded Czech Kristina Pliskova in the second round, said she felt there were plenty of positives to take from the tournament.
“I think I was able to cut it from a physical point of view as well as my forehands and high balls, and hopefully I can keep this going,” she said.
Kato became the first Japanese player to reach the final of this tournament since Kimiko Date in 2010. Date, 46, played her last game before retiring for a second time earlier in the week here.
“I had heard that it was the first time for a Japanese player since Date. She finished runner-up so I really wanted to go one better and win, and it stings that I wasn’t able to do that,” said Kato.