HUA HIN, Thailand – No.8 seed Nao Hibino scored a career-best victory as she ousted No.1 seed Elina Svitolina from the GSB Thailand Open presented by E@ to move into the semifinals.
The World No.84 had a 0-6 career record against players in the Top 10 approaching this last-eight encounter, but took command in the middle of the first set before accelerating to a surprise victory in one hour and 18 minutes.
And it was amply deserved, with the 25-year-old showing a lovely array of power, touch and determination to overcome a player she managed to win only three games against when they previously met in Hong Kong in 2018.
“I’m so happy to win the match today because she’s one of the top players in the world,” Hibino said. “I’ve watched her play on TV so many times, and I’m incredibly happy.”
Svitolina had the opportunity to break in the third game of the match, but it was saved by a daring dropshot, the type of which typified Hibino’s play thereafter.
If the first six games of the match was shared on serve, the No.8 seed dominated thereafter, moving ahead when the Ukrainian made a flurry of errors in a service game.
Parity might have been restored immediately as Hibino went wide with a crosscourt backhand following a lengthy exchange that was dominated by Svitolina, but it proved only a temporary blip for the Hiroshima champion, who did not face a break point in her second-round win over Peangtam Plipuech.
A third break in succession followed and this time Hibino was able to serve out for the set, having won an impressive 75% of points behind her first serve, which found its mark 70% of the time.
The World No.4 was powerless to respond as Hibino’s play gathered momentum into the second set. She earned two break points in the opening game, and though the first was missed, Svitolina double faulted on the second.
The momentum was irresistible as the Japanese player pulled off a dazzling display of shot making, producing unlikely winners from improbable angles to increase the pressure on Svitolina, who buckled by falling 5-0 behind.
Some nerves were on display from Hibino as she served for the match, double faulting as Svitolina, who has now lost six of her last seven quarterfinals, finally managed to get on the board, but it proved only a temporary reprieve as the Japanese sealed the encounter with an ace given her next opportunity to close out the win.