Nao Hibino completed Japan's 3-0 win over Kazakhstan in their Billie Jean King Cup tennis qualifier in dramatic fashion Saturday, clinching her country's place in the team event's finals.

Hibino outlasted Yulia Putintseva 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(7) to give the Naomi Osaka-led Japan an insurmountable lead in the best-of-five indoor hardcourt tie at Tokyo's Ariake Coliseum.

Japan's Nao Hibino plays in a Billie Jean King Cup women's tennis qualifier against Kazakhstan at Tokyo's Ariake Coliseum on April 13, 2024. (Kyodo)

The 12-team finals will be played in November in Seville, Spain. Japan has advanced to the finals for the first time since the current format was introduced in 2020.

"I took the captain's job last year, and I didn't expect us to reach the final round this soon," Japan's Billie Jean King Cup captain Ai Sugiyama said. "I want to thank the five players who got together here for this event despite a busy tour schedule"

The 29-year-old Hibino, ranked 79th in the world, saved four match points in the third-set tie-break against her 50th-ranked opponent, who won their previous meeting 6-2, 6-2 at the Hobart International in Australia in January.

Hibino broke down in tears when she ended the seesaw battle with a forehand volley.

"I could feel the crowd was turning up the voltage from around 5-4 in the third set," Hibino said. "Then I started wanting to win so badly. My coach was surprised to see me cry since I haven't cried even after winning titles on the tour."

The match lasted 2 hours, 10 minutes, with both players converting five of seven break points.

Putintseva frequently tried to change the pace with drop shots.

"Against a tough opponent who beat me in straight sets in Hobart this year, I couldn't predict what kind of match I would have. I'm just glad I managed to keep fighting until the end."

Naomi Osaka (R) celebrates Japan's win over Kazakhstan with captain Ai Sugiyama in a Billie Jean King Cup women's tennis qualifier at Tokyo's Ariake Coliseum on April 13, 2024. (Kyodo)

A day earlier, Hibino and former world No. 1 Osaka gave Japan a 2-0 lead with respective straight-sets wins.

"I got an energy boost from Naomi's performance in yesterday's match," Hibino said. "She is so powerful. The way Naomi is playing has made me think she'll win one or two more Grand Slam titles."

Kazakhstan captain Yuriy Schukin told a post-match press conference that Team Japan prepared and played well to get through tough matches.

Asked to comment on the current situation in Kazak tennis, he said, "Our federation is working really well. We have a good structure. I hope our juniors are growing up and are going to play better in the future."

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