Nao Hibino wins Tashkent: A name to keep an eye on


HibinoI haven’t been covering Tashkent this week, the International event that has been running alongside Wuhan. Saturday’s final was an intriguing one on paper between Donna Vekic and Nao Hibino and I did get to watch some of it. Vekic has had a disappointing year up till now but still manages to have these super runs at tournaments. I think people forget that she is only 19 years old.

Hibino won the Tashkent final, 6-2 6-2 to win her first WTA title. In fact, Hibino only played her first WTA event last month in the Tokyo International event where she won a round. I’d heard her name mentioned this summer after she won two ITF titles in Stockton and Lexington but this was the first time i’ve watched her play… I was really, really impressed. Hibino was awesome on the defence and chased down so many balls. She turned defence into attack so effectively and managed to produce some excellent backhand winners down-the-line. Hibino played such a smart match against a imploding opponent. Vekic actually played some decent tennis at times but all too often was forced into making an error. The crowd seemed to be an issue as you could hear them on the stream! Vekic seemed to let this affect her and the focus and concentration wasn’t there, wavering constantly throughout the match. She also committed nine double faults, a couple of them looked slightly lacking in effort.

Still, it’s nice to see Vekic into a WTA final after a rough summer. She’s got some decent strokes but needs to try and knuckle down in these situations. I think it would also be favourable for Vekic to play more ITF events to try and build up her confidence although this result should help. Hibino is definitely one to watch for the future and she will now rise into the world’s top 80 for the first time in her career. Hibino is also going to be the MVP in Racket Rally, of which a couple of players in the Moo’s Tennis Blog league, ma01dp (my smug brother) and woznowuss both have shares in. Apologies for no Racket Rally updates in the last few months. I’m starting to check out a little of this year and the organisers seemed to have lost a bit of interest with some tournaments not being counted.

In the marquee final of the day in Wuhan, Venus Williams won Wuhanbledon as Garbiñe Muguruza was forced to retire in the second set with Venus leading 6-3 3-0. After the first game it looked more likely that Venus would be the one to retire; with both legs heavily strapped, Venus was struggling for movement. However, she was hitting the ball so SO well from the baseline. It seemed clear what Muguruza had to do… move Venus from side-to-side. She just couldn’t execute the gameplan, making a flurry of errors in the process. Muguruza was also hampered by the ankle injury picked up in the semi-finals against Angelique Kerber and her serve and movement both looked affected at times. Still, I wasn’t expecting the retirement.

Muguruza is pretty much there for Singapore. The WTA confirmed that the title would have seen the Spaniard officially qualify. Venus is in the top eight but with many points up for grabs in Beijing, she’ll need more points to consolidate her position. It would be a surprise to see both players do well in Beijing and there could be a pair of withdrawals. Both players have byes into the second round so may not have to play their first matches until Tuesday.

Screencap from TennisTV coverage

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