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WTA Rio de Janeiro 2015 tournament preview

Kurumi Nara of Japan poses with Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic after winning the 2014 Rio Open women's singles final (Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Japan’s Kurumi Nara is expected to return to defend her title at the Rio Open in 2015.

The inaugural WTA Rio Open was played in 2014 on the outdoor clay courts of the Jockey Club Brasileiro. A handful of top women players contested the title with current World No. 29 Klara Zakopalova emerging at the top seed. 

Despite Zakopalova advancing all the way into the finals without dropping a set en route, the 32-year-old succumbed to lower ranked Kurumi Nara in the final, who is ten years her junior.

Nara overcame Zakopalova 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 to win the first ever WTA title of her career. Unlike Zakopalova though, Nara had dropped a set on her way to the final but had still enjoyed a dream week at the tournament. 

The 22-year-old was ecstatic with the victory: 

"I can't believe it! I guess now I want to stay in the Top 50 this year! But it's really amazing. I try not to think about being No. 1 in Japan. I really just try to focus on my game and my tennis every day. I just try my best every time and now I have my first WTA title. I'm so happy right now,” she said.

Nara gained the early lead as she stormed ahead to take the first set 6-1. The 22-year-old from Japan had many opportunities to seal the victory in the second, as she was up a break three times, but Zakopalova held on and pushed the match to a deciding third set.

Nara was able to regroup in the decider and gained all of her momentum back to close out the championship 6-1 in the third, in much the same fashion as she had won the first.

"She played very well and it was a very tough match for me. In the second set I was probably thinking too much about winning the title, so after I lost the set I had a good break and tried to come back and play well again in the third set. I'm just so happy I could win in the end today,” Nara said after the final.

The title caps off a remarkable six months for the Japanese right-hander, which has seen her reach the third round of both the US and the Australian Open as well as advance into her first WTA semi-final at Osaka. 

However, Zakopalova on the other hand, has won two WTA titles for her career, but they were obtained over ten years ago. Most recently the former World No. 20 has lost twelve consecutive singles finals although, during some stages of the match against Nara, she appeared unwell.

"I have an asthma problem so I couldn't breathe. But it's not an excuse. Well done to Kurumi. She deserved it. She played really well," Zakopalova said.

With the victory Nara gained 280 Emirates Rankings points and 43,000 while Zakopalova collected 180 points and $21,400 for reaching the final. 

Nara is expected to defend her title in the second edition of the WTA Rio Open, which will be played in 2015.

The Rio Open will take place between 16 February – 23 February 2015.

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WTA Rio de Janeiro 2015 tournament preview

Japan’s Kurumi Nara is expected to return to defend her title at the Rio Open in 2015.

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