HUA HIN, Thailand – Magda Linette outlasted Monica Niculescu to progress to the quarterfinals of the Toyota Thailand Open presented by E@ with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory.
Played in hot and humid conditions and lasting two-and-a-half hours, the resolve of both players was stretched to the maximum, and it was the Pole who came out on top.
The WTA World No.98 had won only one game in her previous meeting with Niculescu, back in a qualifier for 2014 Beijing.
And the early signs were that Linette would again toil against an opponent ranked two spots below her.
Seventeen unforced errors came from her racquet as she struggled to cope with the offbeat style of her opponent, whose accurate slicing and regular change of pace provided an unusual challenge.
Niculescu raced into a double-break advantage in the first set and it was only when 1-5 down that Linette started to make headway. It was too late, however, to salvage the opener.
Although it was the WTA World No.100 who took the initiative at the start of the second set, she required a medical timeout because she was feeling unwell.
— WTA (@WTA) January 31, 2019
The Romanian, who had her blood pressure taken, looked weary in the remainder of the set, battling hard but lacking the vivacity she had displayed in the first. Without a big shot in her armoury, it was the bigger-hitting Linette who prospered, fighting back to take the match to a third.
Both players escaped the steamy conditions briefly and emerged for the decider in new outfits, but while the clothes had changed, the momentum of the match had not.
Niculescu was looking healthier, but the momentum still lay with her opponent, who made a breakthrough in the third game of the set.
Another arrived in the seventh as Niculescu faded, with Linette sealing her place in the last eight by serving out to 30.
Yafan Wang lies await in the quarterfinals after she moved through due to the retirement of Zhang Shuai after only five games. The No.5 seed was out of sorts from the beginning and after being broken for a second time gave up her challenge after consultation with the tournament doctor as she complained of feeling sick.
Previously, Viktorija Golubic had won her place in the last eight with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over qualifier Yingying Duan.
Thursday's final match was perhaps the most remarkable as Tamara Zidansek blew three match points serving 40-0, 5-1 up in the deciding set against Jennifer Brady. The American, who had won the second 6-0 and losing the first 6-3, rallied to force a tiebreaker and even worked two match points of her own before going down, 11-9, on her opponents' seventh match point.