DUBAI, UAE - Top seed and defending champion Elina Svitolina needed to dig deep in her return to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday, as she defeated lucky loser Wang Qiang, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2.
In what was a stark contrast to the first meeting between the two - a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) win for Svitolina at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells last year - at least early on, the Ukrainian was dominant in the opening set after saving a pair of break points in her first service game.
Though Wang stayed tough in the latter stages of the second set to force a decider as she snuck a late break of serve, the final set proved nearly a mirror image of the first as the top seed took an early break and added insurance late to move safely through to the quarterfinals.
"I didn't expect [to play three sets], but I always try to expect unexpected," Svitolina said after the match. "I was little bit angry at myself that I didn't bring my best game in the end of the second set. I had to accept and bounce back.
"I was very happy with the way I was playing. In the end, the win is the win."
Despite hitting 53 unforced errors over the course of three sets, Svitolina hit 38 winners over the course of the two hour, 10 minute clash - more than double Wang's total of 17.
The Ukrainian also afforded herself more opportunities on return in the match, as she converted on five of 15 break points, while Wang managed to convert on just two of 11.
Svitolina will face Japan's Naomi Osaka in the last eight, after the World No.48 scored an upset victory over World No.28 Anett Kontaveit, 6-2, 7-6(5) earlier on Wednesday.
"She has great baseline game. She strikes the ball. I didn't see much of her lately, but definitely my coach is going to take me through her game. We're going to have a plan that I will have to stick to, [and I will] just try to bring my best game into the next match," Svitolina said.
"She has the weapons. For her age, she also has quite good ranking. She's beating good players. She's here in quarterfinal. It's going to be definitely a challenge for me."