Hong Kong Tennis Open: Svitolina earns big win over Hibino in straight sets
Elina Svitolina got another comfortable win that set her on a new path at the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open Thursday night. The top seed blanked Nao Hibino in the opening set before taking it in straight sets 6-0, 6-3 on centre court at Victoria Park Tennis Centre. It ended the short visits that the Ukrainian put into the tournament seeing her way to the quarterfinals.
The two met last in Kuala Lumpur when the Ukrainian put an end to her title defence in Malaysia with an injury giving Hibino the pass. With her recent slide out of the way after winning in fine form against Priscilla Hon, the 24-year-old eyed a spot in the quarterfinals to get herself in form for the remainder of the season as world number five. Hibino continued her winning ways in Hong Kong defeating Sam Stosur in the first round in straight sets. With her three-match winning streak in the tournament and having yet to drop a set, the 23-year-old would push Svitolina to falter if her game was at the level to do so.
After Svitolina comfortably held her opening serve, Hibino felt unready to compete. She committed three consecutive double faults that ultimately handed the Ukrainian an early lead. Showing no discomfort, Svitolina nailed down another hold ending it with a second ace to go up 3-0. The Japanese qualifier still couldn’t get her game rolling in the fourth resulting in the top seed earning the double break with two left for the set.
She kept the speed high during her rallies with the 23-year-old who found some control but not enough to limit the unforced errors. She served to try and avoid the bagel with a low serve percentage coming back to fight in the sixth. Despite a challenge that visually looked out but was in, Hibino saved two set points to force deuce. It wasn’t enough to change the course that Svitolina was already on bringing a close to the first in 23 minutes. Hibino was trounced on her own accord, serving 30 percent from both the first and second. With the return game performing at the same level, she would have to put it behind her to stay in the competition.
Svitolina wasn’t ready to come off the high level of offence she had created scoring her third ace in the first game of the second stanza. It began another show of force that stopped Hibino’s hopes of getting on the board on serve. She nearly had it coming back from two break points to force deuce but an error opened the door for Svitolina to swipe it away from her. An opportunity again came for the Japanese star as she gained a break point chance but watched it fade away. She earned a second break point on Svitolina’s forehand into the net that won her the game on a long ball return.
The Ukrainian returned the favour back in the fourth holding two break points on Hibino to increase her margin on the score. It was soon 4-1 for the number one seed who had the 23-year-old beaten down. She managed to get another service hold down with great court positioning and response in the rallies of the sixth. With the notion of an increase to her opponent’s offence, Svitolina made sure she capped the seventh scoring her fifth ace of the night to play for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Hibino was under serious pressure to keep the match going but kept some focus to save match point and force deuce where she got a third win on a crosscourt winner. A break wouldn’t come to her as Svitolina eyed the victory with three match points. When it looked as if the game wouldn’t completely get out of hand, the number one seed won it on her last chance on her fourth match point attempt that finished her night in 57 minutes.
Svitolina had more than two dozen winners and seven aces total to come through with the result she wanted. “It was a good match from me,” Svitolina said during her on-court interview. “I was really dominating from the beginning and I was just trying to put lots of pressure from the baseline and everything worked tonight and I’m very pleased.”
Her biggest challenge comes against Qiang Wang who has been on a tear during the Asia swing of the season. “She’s playing good but I’m playing well as well,” Svitolina said. “I like the court here and hopefully I’ll be prepared and it’s gonna be a good match definitely.”