Nao Hibino accomplished a feat at the Thailand Open Friday night. The 25-year-old brought a tremendous service game to the fore that helped her beat top-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-2 at GSB Centre Court in Hua Hin. The upset gave Hibino her first-ever top 10 win and an advance into Saturday’s semifinal.
The duo clashed two years ago in Hong Kong with the Ukrainian dominating with a shutout in the opening set, allowing three games to the Japanese after. In this tournament, the world No.4 increased her power, pulling off a tremendous victory against Storm Sanders, giving her three games in total. With her eyes closing in on the title, the top seed would try and keep her grip on Hibino but control her side of the court.
One thing that was out of her hands was the wind that picked up at the start of the match. It took a toll on her ability to close out service games which Hibino did not have trouble accomplishing. While they stayed on serve, the Japanese star held to love but in the fourth game, she struggled to hold off the Ukrainian. It took her four breaks on deuce to remain on serve which lasted two more games in the set.
Hibino made the first move of breaking Svitolina in the seventh game before she found herself broken back in the eighth game. A long deuce draw occurred again in the ninth that spanned two breaks with the eighth seed securing the double on Svitolina.
With the ball in hand to serve for the set, Hibino reached two set points and accomplished her first-ever set win against a top 10 player. It was a 44-minute set win with Hibino carrying the better first service than her higher-ranked opponent, who struggled on both the first and second.
An attempt to overcome the early defeat ended with a double fault to begin in the second set. Hibino answered with a firm service that consolidated the break, giving her the 2-0 lead. Svitolina struggled in the search for her first serve that in turn gave Hibino the double break and the Ukrainian her second double fault.
She never found her chance to recover as Hibino moved into position with a 5-0 hold over the top seed. Serving for the match, the Japanese star and her dominance service game went silent, giving Svitolina life.
Trailing four games, the top seed managed to dig deeper into Hibino’s sudden troubles and hold serve for the first time in the set. It was the last positive moment Svitolina would earn in the match as the service game returned for Hibino, which saw her scoring an ace to finish the match in 1 hour and 17 minutes.