PALERMO, Italy - Top seed Petra Martic had to dig deep to turn around a set deficit against qualifier Liudmila Samsonova and reach the quarterfinals at the Palermo Ladies Open.

Martic needed a few games to find her rhythm against the 21-year-old Russian Samsonova, ranked World No.117. Martic rallied after narrowly dropping the first set, and raised her level to complete the comeback, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. 

Read more: Sasnovich seals Paolini to reach Palermo last eight

“The struggle was real out there today,” Martic joked in her post-match press conference. “From the first point, I started off not feeling my game and she was really in such a good rhythm. 

“I think [Samsonova] played really good. She’s not the type of player I like to play: she plays really fast, hits really flat and low. And especially on these courts it can be tricky.

“Overall I didn’t really enjoy myself out there. But I realized right away that it was not going to be easy and I was going to have to fight.”

Neither player gave their opponent an inch during the hard-fought opening set, which saw the first 11 games go the way of the server. Martic employed her variety and all-court aggression to try to neutralized Samsonova’s firepower, but the Russian qualifier kept pace. 

Martic and Samsonova created three break opportunities between them as the score reached the end stage of the set, staying on serve at 5-4. Martic put in a huge effort in saving six break points in her next service game to make it 5-5, but the Russian finally closed her out with a final break for 7-5, needing three more set points to get the job done. 

Photo by Jimmie48 Photography/WTA

A visibly frustrated Martic hit the reset button in the second set, and was rewarded with and early break to lead 1-0. Martic raised her level as the set unfolded, finding winners and saving a break point to keep her lead at 3-2. Samsonova never stayed down for long, and broke back late in the set to level at 4-4, but Martic refused to let her take the lead this time and broke straight back before serving out the set, 6-4. 

She’ll have to face another qualifier in the next round as Belarus’ Aliaksandra Sasnovich awaits in the quarterfinals. Currently ranked World No.50, but once climbing as high as No.30, Sasnovich had to battle through qualifying before ending Jasmine Paolini’s run in straight sets to advance. 

“I’ve got two matches now, I’ve fought and I’ve played good, I’ve played bad, I experienced it all,” Martic said. “I feel like I’m going to be ready.”

2020 Palermo highlights: Martic survives Samsonova to book quarterfinals