World No. 4, Elina Svitolina contests her first quarter final of the season when she takes on Japan's Nao Hibino at the Thailand Open in Hua Hin on Friday.
Elina Svitolina vs Nao Hibino is live from Hua Hin from 5:00pm local time/ 10:00am GMT
Svitolina hasn’t had much trouble in reaching the Hua Hin quarter finals, beating Bibiane Schoofs and Storm Sanders in straight sets to take her place in the last eight.
The top seed had to save seven of nine break points in her 6-2 6-4 opening round victory over Schoofs, including two when she served for the match, but she was a lot more comfortable against Sanders in the second round, winning 6-1 6-2 in just 57 minutes.
The Ukrainian converted 82% of her first serve points, and gave up only two break points- both in the third game of the match, when she got broken. That proved to be just a minor stumble, as she charged through the rest of the match, winning the final five games to move into the quarters.
“I was playing well today,” said Svitolina afterwards. “I’m very happy with the way I was playing – I think she was really tough, I had to step up my game, and in the end this was the key for the match.”
Still seeking her first title since the 2018 WTA Finals, Svitolina made a slow start to the season, losing 6-1 6-1 to Danielle Collins in the opening round in Brisbane, and crashing 6-1 6-2 to Garbine Muguruza in the third round of the Australian Open. Defeat to Muguruza ended a run of consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals for Svitolina.
The Ukrainian might not have won any titles last season, but she did record her best Grand Slam results, making the last four at Wimbledon and the US Open. Her only final of 2019 came at the season-ending WTA Finals, where she was beaten by Ashleigh Barty.
Can the 13-time WTA titlist go all the way in Hua Hin this week and end a title drought that has now exceeded a year? She faces Nao Hibino in the quarter finals on Friday.
Like Svitolina, Hibino has made the last eight without dropping a set, battling past Arina Rodionova 7-6 7-5 in the first round before blasting past home player, Peangtarn Plipuech 6-0 6-1 in the second round.
Hibino is into her first quarter final since she won the Hiroshima title in September last season. She had fallen in the qualifying rounds in Auckland in her first tournament of 2020, but she got through qualifying at the Australian Open, reaching her first Grand Slam main draw since the 2018 Australian Open.
The Japanese defeated Shuai Peng in the opening round in Melbourne to record just her second major main draw win, and her first since the 2017 US Open, but she was stopped by Greece’s Maria Sakkari in the second round.
The 25-year-old owns a career-high ranking of 56th, attained in 2016, but she has drifted in and out of the top 100 since then, and has finished with a three-digit ranking in each of the last two years.
Outside her Hiroshima success, she won just one other WTA main draw match in all of 2019, against Mexico’s Giuliana Olmos in Monterrey. She did find some joy at ITF level, reaching semi-finals in Kyoto and Suzhou. Hibino spent most of last season outside the top-100, but she briefly broke back into that bracket after her Hiroshima success, rising as high as 87th, only to end the year at 106th.
Her task on Friday is a huge one, as she faces the Hua Hin top seed, Svitolina in the quarter finals. Svitolina was a 6-0 6-3 victor in their only previous meeting in Hong Kong in 2018, and the Ukrainian looks set to ease to another win, and book her place in the Hua Hin semis on Friday.