Simona Halep scored a tight opening win on Wednesday at the Dubai Championships. fighting off three match points before taming Tunisian threat Ons Jabeur 1-6, 6-2, 7-6(7).
The struggle took place not only on court but in the stands at the Aviation Club with rival bands of fans competing to drown the others out, creating an atmosphere much like Fed Cup.
Jabeur, a wild card and only Arab player in the field, said the crowd sometimes put her off.
” I was really stressed at the beginning to see them fighting who screams louder or who’s better,”:” she said. “But I was really happy because obviously she’s Simona Halep, she’s supposed to have more crowd than me.
“It’s amazing to see a match court like this with a lot of crowd screaming. Definitely for concentration was not easy.
“She’s obviously more used to this than me; it’s good first time to learn this.”
Halep, who earned victory into the quarter-finals on her fourth match-winning chance, was unsure of exactly how she came through.
“I don’t know how I was able to finish this,” said the Romanian who had to save a match point herself in the final-set tiebreaker.
“It was up-and-down because she doesn’t give rhythm. It was very weird, but I’m happy I could win.”
Halep joined fellow seeds Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza in the last eight.
“It was like a football match or a Fed Cup match. I didn’t really realise what was going on on court,” Halep added. “Everyone was with a lot of energy so we had to give our best. I think it was a great match.”
The 45th-ranked Jabeur threatened as she rallied from 4-2 down in the decider before finally sending over an error to end the evening.
“It was a very tough match, she played well,” Halep said. “I wanted to give all I had and just wanted to win. I didn’t give up, I’m proud I fought to the end.”
In the quarter-finals, Halep faces Belarusian seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka who defeated doubles partner Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-4, 6-3.
Earlier Garbine Muguruza and Czech Karolina Pliskova stopped the rot for seeds at the Dubai Championships on Wednesday, with the Spaniard forced to battle before subduing Veronika Kudermetova 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
While second seed Pliskova had it her own way in a crushing 6-1, 6-2 defeat of French qualifier Kristina Mladenovic.
The seeded pair managed to advance 24 hours after the event lost Melbourne Grand Slam champion Sonia Kenin, fourth-seeded defending champion Belinda Bencic and third seed Elina Svitolina.
Australian Open finalist Muguruza needed nearly two and a half hours to defeat Kudermetova, who emerged from qualifying rounds.
“I just stayed in the fight because she was playing great, I didn’t give up until the last point,” the winner said. “I’m just happy that I get these tough matches.
“Honestly, the difference is very, very small, I’m just pleased to go through.”
The Spaniard broke five times while losing her own serve on four occasions; the double Grand Slam winner reached the quarter-finals on her first match point with a break of her opponent.
“Everybody’s playing well today. When you’re in quarter-finals, you’re playing girls that are going through the tournament,” Muguruza said.
“There’s a lot of things that I could have done better, but I’m excited that I gave myself another opportunity to be in the quarters.”
Muguruza, seeded ninth, will play for the semis against American Jennifer Brady, a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 winner against Marketa Vondrousova.
Pliskova was untroubled by Mladenovic, whom she beat last month in the Melbourne first round.
“It’s always a tough one against her. We played in Australia, so I knew what to expect,” the Czech said.
“I was not playing amazing but still, even with a couple of mistakes, I didn’t give up.
”The score looked little bit is easier than it really was, we had a couple of tough games. I think I had all the match under my control, I was in charge of most of the games.”