The draw of a tournament can be damaging for some and lucky for others, but it's not all the time that two qualifiers play each other. This had happened to Zarina Diyas from Kazakhstan and Japan's Miyu Kato.
The draw had these two meet at the Japan Women's Open in Tokyo. It was the first time that they've ever played each other and while Diyas knew that her opponent was at her home turf, she tried not to dwell on that idea and to stay true to her game.
"It was a very tough match and I think we were both a bit tired...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", Diyas said in pure relief that her strategies brought a victory.
But the Kazakhstani 23-year-old had terrible luck three years ago at the same tournament when she played opposite Australia's Samantha Stosur and lost in the final. She also had strained times when she turned pro in 2009, despite the fact that she played her first professional tournament at a $100K ITF event she loss in the 1st qualifying round.
The following year she won her first ITF title for $25K and a few years later she rose up the rankings, reaching the final in Rome but yet another loss, with chances scratched for gaining a title. It was in Prague that she was constantly hustling to not only play the top ranked players in the draw, but trying her best to win, which she managed to come out victorious in straight sets over France's Kristina Mladenovic and Czech's Petra Kvitova.
Diyas continued her winning streak and gained another ITF title without even dropping a set. At the beginning of 2012 she was ranked no. 352 and had participated in a Taipei event playing opposite her was the no. 40 ranked Peng Shuai whom she had also defeated in straight sets.
Diyas felt her tremendous struggles to stay consistent was in the past as her professionallife was improving constantly. By 2013 she had faced a very successful time lowering her ranking to 264, having a big win over Kristyna Pliskova in the opening of the Malaysian Open and in Makinohara she won over Swiss' Belinda Bencic.
Diyas was able to get into the main draw of the Australian Open in 2014, getting into the quarterfinals of the Malaysian Open, her first quarterfinal time. She'd gained entry also into the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open even though her victories still weren't as constant as she had hoped.
But the following year proved a disaster for she had suffered a wrist injury at the opening Wimbledon round and had to have surgery leaving her absent from the courts throughout the year. The climb into the top 100s was now void causing her drop in rankings way out of the 100s.
It was an emotional rehabilitation but she knew with patience and time she'd be ready for the 2017 season. Diyas could hardly wait to get back on the court but this year brought a lot of losses until she won a 100K tournament in Manchester, England, not dropping a set and winning over five opponents.
She was at Wimbledon on a wild card, winning two rounds but as the Asian swing began Diyas' luck had changed when she entered the Japan Women's open in Tokyo. The qualifying rounds came easier to her as she won them and zoomed into the main draw having success over Misaki Doi, Shuai Zhang, Yulia Putintseva and Christina McHale to reach the finals.
But Diyas' great play was tested when she entered the final Miyu Kato, the hometown favorite. Kato had never been into a quarterfinal of any tournament and just to be in the final and in Japan was the greatest prize of all.
Diyas was the one with the most experience and it showed in the Japan Open. She had broke Kato in the very first game and lead 5-2 with the help of the Japanese's unforced errors. Diyas' game started to fall apart and it allowed Kato to even up the score to 3-all.
Somehow though Diyas' focused and desire to win the match and title took over for her to be more aggressive with a 6-5 lead to generate the win of the match and her first career title. Both ladies gave kudos to the other : "Miyu played really well and I had to work for every point.
I am really happy", Diyas said as she celebrated her first WTA title. "I lost today, but Zarina played really well and I have hopes I can try hard in my next tournament", Miyu said of Diyas and of her own efforts in the fight to win a title.
Zarina Diyas could only remember back when she was out for most of last year with an injured wrist that gave her the determination to go on as she explained that "Winning the title means so much to me especially after my surgery last year...It was really tough to come back and I am really happy with my title..." she'd said.
So Zarina Diyas will be satisfied to continue the Asian swin tour on a great not, winnign a title and climbing up the rankings, feeling fully accomplished at finishing up the season on a better situation than last year.