TOKYO, April 13 — Naomi Osaka was not required to play after team-mate Nao Hibino sent Japan to their first Billie Jean King Cup finals today with an unassailable 3-0 qualifying lead over Kazakhstan.

Former world number one and four-time major winner Osaka was appearing at the competition for the first time since 2020 and won her opening singles game yesterday.

But she did not need to play a second time after Hibino clinched Japan’s spot in November’s finals with a hard-fought 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9/7) win over world number 50 Yulia Putintseva.

Hibino fended off four straight match points for Putintseva before coming back to win the third-set tiebreaker.

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It was the world number 79’s second singles victory of the tie after dispatching Anna Danilina 6-1, 6-0 in under an hour on the opening day.

Osaka beat Putintseva 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) yesterday, hitting 15 aces and no double faults.

It was her first match in Japan since appearing at the Pan Pacific Open in September 2022.

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Kazakhstan were without world number four Elena Rybakina, who lost in the final of the Miami Open last month.

The BJK Cup finals will be held in Seville. — AFP