SHENZHEN, China - World No.1 Simona Halep came from a set down to defeat China's Duan Ying-Ying and advance to the quarterfinals of the Shenzhen Open on Wednesday, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
With the victory, Halep not only advances to the last eight at the WTA Internatonal event, but secures the No.1 seed for the upcoming Australian Open ahead of Caroline Wozniacki and Garbiñe Muguruza.
"I'm not thinking about the ranking, I'm not thinking about the Australian Open," Halep said after her Shenzhen victory. "I will just keep the same routine and same things to do. I'm just thinking about the match tomorrow...I want to be focused just here."
Looking for her first victory over a Top 10 player, the big-hitting World No.91 started brilliantly and blasted her way to a one-set lead for the second time in two career meetings against Halep.
Nonetheless, the Romanian authored an emphatic comeback against the Chinese No.4, having also done so in similar fashion on grass at the Aegon International in Eastbourne last June.
"I knew that she's playing hard and hitting every ball, so I knew that I had to be very strong in my legs," the Romanian said of the second round match.
"After the first set, I knew I had to find the rhythm a little bit, to stay closer to the baseline and just open the court better, which I did very well. It was not easy, even though the scores were 6-1, 6-2 - it was a very tough match."
Halep took advantage of a dip in form from Duan over the course of the 98-minute victory, breaking the Chinesewoman five times in the second and third sets after not having a break point in Duan's first five service games.
After connecting on 72% of her first serves in the opener, Duan's percentage hovered in the mid-to-high 50s over the next two sets, allowing the World No.1 several opportunities to return second serves, which she duly took advantage of by winning 15 of the 20 points played.
When all was said and done, Halep posted 21 winners to just 13 unforced errors in the match, while Duan was unable to keep pace with her furious start and ended the match with eight more unforced errors (27) to winners (19) overall.
"I think she played really well in the first set and during the match. I think she got a little bit tired and also had the problem with her leg. It was not easy for her to move," Halep added, refercing the medical timeout Duan took in between the second and third sets.
In the quarterfinals, Halep will next face another big hitter in the form of teenage sensation Aryna Sabalenka, after the unseeded Belarusian looked impervious in a 6-1, 6-0 defeat of Montenegrin qualifier Danka Konvinic on Tuesday.
"I never played against her and I never seen how she's playing," Halep said of the rising Belarusian. "I know that she's a big hitter so it's going to be a similar match like today. I'm ready to play, so we'll see what's going to happen tomorrow."