Osaka, Japan book BJK Cup finals ticket


Naomi Osaka salutes the crowd after securing her Billie Jean King Cup singles win for Japan.
Naomi Osaka salutes the crowd after securing her Billie Jean King Cup singles win for Japan.

Japan have advanced to the Billie Jean King (BJK) Cup finals without Naomi Osaka needing to play her second singles match.

With the hosts leading 2-0 after Friday’s opening singles contests in Tokyo, Nao Hibino beat Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva 6-4 3-6 7-6 (9-7) on Saturday to advance Japan to November’s finals in Seville, Spain.

A total of 16 nations are involved in qualifiers, with the eight winners advancing.

Those eight teams will join defending champions Canada, 2023 runners-up Italy, hosts Spain and wildcard selections the Czech Republic in the 12-country field.

On Friday, Osaka hit 15 aces in a 6-2 7-6 (7-5) win over Putintseva.

Back on tour after becoming a mother last July, Osaka saved all three break points she faced and compiled a 31-16 edge in winners.

It was the four-time grand slam champion’s first match in the team competition since February 2020.

Osaka’s later singles match against Anna Danilina, who Hibino beat in straight sets 24 hours earlier, was not played.

Australia were the first team to move out of the qualifying round after eliminating Mexico in Brisbane on Saturday, when Taylah Preston scored a crushing 6-1 6-1 win over Marcela Zacarias to make the overall score 3-0.

Preston’s win followed singles victories on Friday for Arina Rodionova and Daria Saville.

Celebrating Australians.
The Aussies celebrate punching their ticket for the BJK Cup Finals in Spain. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Australia, runners-up twice in the past five years, are seeking their first title since 1974.

In other action, No.1-ranked Iga Swiatek and Poland went ahead 2-0 in Switzerland and 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu helped Britain finish day one tied 1-1 with France.

The US lead Belgium 2-0, Ukraine won both matches against Romania, Germany were ahead of hosts Brazil 2-0 and Slovakia were up 2-0 against visiting Slovenia.