STRASBOURG, France - Unseeded Nao Hibino earned the first victory of her summer in the first round of the Internationaux de Strasbourg on Monday with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 victory over No.8 seed Sloane Stephens.
The Japanese World No.83 went 0-3 in her first three events of the summer at the Western & Southern Open, US Open and Internazionali BNL d'Italia, but secured a well-earned first-round victory on the French clay against the former Roland Garros finalist in one hour and 45 minutes.
"Last week, I lost in qualies in Rome and it was not a good match, so I learned from that," Hibino said after the match.
"Of course, Sloane is a good player, especially on clay courts. I prepared mentally and with tactics, so I think it helped a lot today."
In a match that saw a combined 34 break points for both players, Hibino broke serve nine times and never trailed in each set she won, breaking serve twice to set the tone and holding on from there.
After the pair split sets, the American proved unable to capitalize on a 0-40 lead in the first game of the decider and never again got close to breaking serve from there.
"In the first two sets, I was expecting her mistakes a little bit," Hibino added. "In the final set, I tried to hit more heavy shots and tried to go for it and win the points."
Serving 11 double faults of her own in the contest, Stephens saved a match point to deny Hibino a bagel, but the Japanese No.3 ultimately wrapped up victory on her third match point.
Up next, Hibino will face Kazakhstan's Zarina Diyas for a spot in the quarterfinals. Diyas, the World No.73, came through a marathon victory over American qualifier Christina McHale in three hours and eight minutes, rallying from a set and 4-0 down to win, 6-7(4), 7-5, 7-6(3).
"She's a very low-ball hitter, but I've played against her a couple of times so I know how she plays," Hibino said. "Nothing will change, so I'll just prepare mentally and with tactics like today."