Zarina Diyas has an unusual claim to fame, being the only tennis player who plays under the Kazakhstan flag who is a Kazakh by birth.
The central Asian republic’s tennis federation has developed the sport greatly in recent years, building an infrastructure almost from scratch. Controversially, though, their growing reputation in both Fed Cup and Davis Cup has come by importing Russian players willing to change their nationality to receive generous financial and coaching support. Diyas is the only homegrown member of her country’s Fed Cup team.
Diyas, 20 and born in Almaty, despatched the 15th seed Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round and beat Vera Zvonareva in the third round 7-6 6-3 3-6.
Zvonareva, 29, has been out of the game for 18 months after surgery on her right shoulder and having been laid low by a virus, but as a three-time finalist in singles and doubles the All England Club gave her a wild card. She rewarded that gesture by beating Britain’s Tara Moore and then the Croatian Donna Vekic in straight sets.
Today’s match on Court 18 wasn’t pretty tennis, but it improved as the match went on. A long break for rain did not help as the players exchanged three breaks in the first set, with Zvonareva playing a more tactically intelligent game. The Russian served for the first set at 5-4 but Diyas saved three sets points and went on to win a tiebreak 7-1.
The players continued to exchange breaks in the opening games of the second set but with a greater variety of shots Zvonareva took it 6-3.
The final set produced wonderful play with long rallies, and the Kazakh began to play more tactically, pushing the Russian out wide. She won the seventh game after six deuces and then broke the Russian to take control. A loose return into the net gave Diyas the only match point she needed to earn a match against Simona Halep.