At almost 28 years old, Yuriko 'Lily' Miyazaki is through to the second round of a tennis Grand Slam for the first time in her career.
The Tokyo-born talent has stolen her share of the spotlight after defeating Margarita Betova in straight sets to advance at the US Open. She'll earn at least $123,000 (£97,000) thanks to her performance in New York, which is more than a third of the combined winnings she'd earned from almost a decade on the tennis circuit until now.
Needless to say Miyazaki – who officially took British citizenship last year after moving to London aged 10 – is playing in new territory. But after three qualifying wins to even reach the main draw at Flushing Meadows, she's fully deserving of the rise in attention.
“I’m kind of lost for words right now,” said Miyazaki after beating Russian Betova 6-3, 6-3. “Coming into this tournament I didn’t expect to be in this stage, I’m just really happy and proud of myself.”
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And she has every reason to be. While most of those in the US Open's second round will be playing just their second match of the tournament, Wednesday's clash against 15th seed Belinda Bencic will be fifth Miyazaki has played across her last seven days in New York.
As well as being aware of the earnings boost coming her way, Miyazaki is also set to climb from No. 198 in the WTA rankings and will move up at least 40 places or so in the next update. That rise will be even more substantial if she were to somehow surprise Bencic, though their history means she's aware of the threat coming her way.
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“I played her when I was about nine years old and she must have been about seven or eight,” added Miyazaki. “I remember even back then she was taking the ball so early. Yeah, half-volleying, drive-volleying, everything. Yeah, I expect a really tough match.”
'Lily' was just five years old when her parents, Akiko and Yoichi, left their native Japan for Switzerland. She spent another five years there before finally arriving in the United Kingdom, though more than a decade would pass before she fully embraced her adoptive country (from a sporting perspective).
The ITF veteran also addressed the benefits of adding such a considerable amount to her winnings fund, commenting 'the financial side is huge'. “We travel around a lot. Yeah, maybe now I can travel a bit more with a coach, things like that," she said. "Because when I’m playing at the ITF level I tend to travel on my own.”
Miyazaki is far from the most imposing figure in the Big Apple considering she stands at a little over 5'5". However, her name is starting to carry a little more weight after progress on the Grand Slam stage, which started with a wildcard appearance in the first round of Wimbledon 2022.
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Having notched five singles wins and seven doubles triumphs on the ITF circuit, she's making the step up in the company of WTA names and doesn't look out of place. Miyazaki will hope to ensure her maiden major win is the first of many, however, with Bencic the biggest obstacle to date blocking a surprise path to success.
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