Big test for Zarina Diyas after stellar 2014
Originally published on 23/01/15
While Diyas may not have attracted as many headlines as other youngsters such as Belinda Bencic and Caroline Garcia, she too made real inroads on the WTA Tour last season. She ended 2013 playing a minor ITF tournament in Japan, where she retired hurt in the first round while facing a local opponent ranked No.876 in the world. Fast forward to the end of 2014 and the 21-year-old from Kazakhstan could hardly have finished her season on a more glamorous stage – playing in the inaugural WTA Rising Stars Invitational event in Sinapore.
She started 2014 at No.163 and ended it at No.33. Having had to qualify to play for the Australian Open last year, twelve months later she is seeded. Having rubbed shoulders in Singapore with the likes of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova at the WTA Finals, Diyas will now face world No.2 Sharapova in Melbourne.
At 5ft 8in tall and weighing 10 stone, Diyas lacks the power of some of the top women, but makes up for it with her competitive spirit, mental strength and intelligent play. She first came to the public’s attention towards the end of 2010, when she reached the quarter-finals of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow as a 17-year-old, beating Gisela Dulko and Jelena Jankovic along the way.
Shoulder surgery a year later kept her off the court for six months, after which she started working with coach Alan Ma in Guangzhou. Her progress was steady at first but has been spectacular in the last year. Diyas made her Grand Slam debut at the start of last year at the Australian Open, where she won three matches in qualifying and then made the third round before losing to Simona Halep.
She reached the quarter-finals in Kuala Lumpur and Strasbourg and recorded two of her biggest wins at Wimbledon, where she knocked out Carla Suarez Navarro, the world No.15, and Vera Zvonareva, a former runner-up at the All England Club, before losing to Halep again in the fourth round. After making the third round at the US Open, Diyas ended the regular season by playing in her first WTA final, losing to Sam Stosur in two tight sets in Osaka.