INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - Top seed Simona Halep withstood an impressive charge from American wildcard Caroline Dolehide, recovering from a set down to win, 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-2, and advance into the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open.
"I'm really, really happy about this victory," a relieved Halep said after the match. "It was tough down there, and much respect to her, because she's playing really good tennis."
Halep had looked solid in her opening round encouter with Kristyna Pliskova, but was on the back foot from the first game against Dolehide, who earned the biggest win of her career in the previous round over former World No.4 Dominika Cibulkova.
The 19-year-old held on to start the match and only got better as the opening set wore on, breaking serve twice and pulling off some stellar winners to put Halep on the brink of elimination.
"She's playing really, really well, and I never played against her, so I didn't know how the ball is coming.
"It was pretty tough in the first set. I played too flat and too fast. So then I tried to miss less and make her move, to roll the ball better."
Halep was forced to use her full arsenal to wrest control from the inspired American, who broke the Romanian as she served to level the match and force a second set tie-break.
"In the end, I think I was stronger on the legs. Also, when I had to finish the point, I did."
The three-time Grand Slam finalist took the early initiative in the ensuing sudden death and rode that momentum into a decisive win after two hours and five minutes on court.
"I was fighting to try to find the rhythm and to try to find the right game against her, which I did. This is the best thing that I will take from this match, not that much the victory. The thing that I found what I have to play, and I came back was more important."
In the end, Halep struck 17 winners to Dolehide's 33, but only 30 unforced errors to the wildcard's 47, and maintained strong serving numbers to finish with a 68% first serve percentage - winning 64% of those points.
Standing between the 2015 BNP Paribas Open champion and a spot in the quarterfinals is China's Wang Qiang, who improved to 3-0 against Kristina Mladenovic on Sunday with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over the Frenchwoman.
"I practiced with her a few days ago here. She's a tough opponent. She's playing well. I expect a really tough one. Different than today, obviously, but I'm ready. I feel okay. So I will do everything I can just to win the match."