KARLSRUHE, Germany - Jasmine Paolini trailed almost all the way in her second-round clash against Tereza Martincova at the inaugural Liqui Moly Open in Karlsruhe - but the Italian's battling qualities paid off with a stellar comeback before Martincova retired trailing 4-6, 7-5(5), 3-0 in the final set after exactly two-and-a-half hours.
Palermo quarterfinalist Paolini made it back-to-back last-eight showings after an indomitable performance in which her boldness of shot selection was undaunted by the vagaries of the scoreboard. In a tight contest in which almost every game could have swung either way - and in which Martincova served for the match at 6-5 in the second set - Paolini never let her opponent settle, despite being overpowered at times by Martincova's greater weight of shot. Three times the Czech captured a break lead in the opening set - and three times Paolini pegged her back before the World No.141 finally located some fierce forehands to serve it out and capture another break to start the second set.
Paolini roared back, though, raising her level by taking the ball earlier and rattling off four straight games to take the first substantial lead of the match. But the World No.132 was unable to sustain her low-percentage strategy, conceding her break on a netted dropshot - and Martincova, aided by her best serving patch of the day, responded by taking five of the next six games to reach the brink of victory.
But Paolini managed to force a tiebreak, and conjured up one of the best shots of the match therein to swing it decisively in her direction. A phenomenal forehand winner down the line at full stretch brought up set points, and the 23-year-old quickly levelled the scoreboard after a backhand drive was too hot for Martincova to deal with at net.
Martincova's final stand was the second game of the final set. Battling to get back on serve, the 24-year-old extended Paolini to eight deuces in a titanic tussle - but, demonstrating more swashbuckling bravery, consecutive drive volley winners from the Italian ultimately sealed it. Two double faults from Martincova paved the way to a double break before she was forced to retire; in the quarterfinals, Paolini will take on the winner of an all-German derby to be played later today between No.3 seed Tatjana Maria and Stephanie Wagner.
Meanwhile, Bucharest runner-up and Jurmala quarterfinalist Patricia Maria Tig continued her remarkable comeback from a two-year hiatus to both deal with various injuries and to take maternity leave. The World No.223 came through an all-Romanian clash against Elena-Gabriela Ruse, coming from a break down in both sets to edge her compatriot 7-5, 7-5. Tig will face Ekaterine Gorgodze in the quarterfinals after the unseeded Georgian squeezed past Bibiane Schoofs by an identical 7-5, 7-5 scoreline.
Meanwhile, in the last first-round match to be completed, home favorite Tamara Korpatsch continued her run of fine recent form by whitewashing 15-year-old lucky loser Liana Cammilleri 6-0, 6-0 in just 40 minutes. Two weeks ago, Korpatsch's record in 2019 was just 9-16 - but a maiden WTA semifinal in Lausanne followed by a title run at last week's Prague ITF W60 event have firmly turned the World No.115's year around.