Top seed Sofia Kenin pulled back from the brink on Sunday, saving a second-set match point to engineer a 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 defeat of Yulia Putintseva to reach the quarter-finals in Abu Dhabi.
The Australian Open holder and WTA Player of the Year in 2020 will next take on Greek Maria Sakkari, who upset fifth seed Garbine Muguruza 7-5, 6-4, helped by 11 aces.
Kenin has won both of her previous meetings with No. 22 Sakkari, with the pair meeting in Grand Slams in 2018. Her opponent has won all three of her matches in this Australian Open tune-up week in straight sets.
The winner said her experience of winning a major helped in her fightback as Putintseva served for a straight-sets win leading a set and 6-5.
“Today was more of a mental match, I train with her in Florida at the Evert academy, so we know each other’s games well,” Kenin said of the two-and-a-half-hour encounter in the UAE capital.
“I didn’t play like I wanted and she was playing well, I guess it helps to be a Grand Slam champion and know what to do in the tough moments.
“I had to find a way to battle through, I’m happy with how I fought, I can take away some extra confidence.”
Sakkari, who saved 12 of 13 break points – including three in the final game as she served for victory – said her serve came through on the day.
“I was in trouble a lot of times, but I managed good serves when I needed them.
I wasn’t serving as well as I wanted and I started a lot of games poorly.
“But I’m starting to feel like I want to during the season. The match with Kenin will be tough, she had the best year of her career last year,” Sakkari said of the world No. 4 American.