ROME, Italy - Simona Halep booked a place in the quarterfinals at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia for the fifth time in her career on Friday with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska.
After losing in the second round to Marketa Vondrousova at the Italian Premier 5 event a year ago, the two-time finalist returned to the last eight with a one hour, 28-minute victory that saw her battle back from a break down in the first set.
Put on the back foot early by the Ukrainian's big hitting off the ground, Halep trailed 3-0 in the opener after losing a trio of tight early games.
The top seed got back on track from there, however, by winning 12 of the next 13 points - and eight straight to break and hold to love to level at 3-3.
"It was not easy against her because you don't really have the rhythm. She hits it very strong and it's tough to return her balls. After I lost the first three games, I just had to focus a little bit better and stop giving her the balls that she likes," Halep said after the match.
"I tried to change it up a little bit, make her move, [hit balls] a little bit high. I think during the match I found some solutions that were good to win. I'm very pleased with the way I moved... and also the serve helped me a lot today. In important moments, I served very well and I won some easy games on my serve. The return was not bad because she has a very good serve.
"Big picture, I think it was a great match and gives me confidence that even in these conditions with a big hitter that I could win in two sets."
Neither player came close to losing serve from there, until Yastremska fell into a 0-40 hole at 5-5 thanks to a double fault and two groundstroke errors, with Halep eventually breaking on her third opportunity.
Taking a lead she'd never relinquish, that break started a string of five straight games for the World No.2, and she'd soon wrap up the opener in three-quarters of an hour by virtue of her first ace.
The top seed's momentum continued well into the second set, as she won 12 of the first 14 points to extend her streak of games won and build a 7-5, 3-0 lead.
Though the Ukrainian got one break back and captured consecutive games of her own, Halep restored order with a love hold and never was under threat of losing her break advantage from then on.
Up next, Halep will face Yulia Putintseva, who came through a dramatic compatriot clash against Elena Rybakina. Putintseva rallied from a 6-4, 5-2 deficit to beat the No.10 seed 4-6, 76(3), 6-2.
"She's fighting a lot and she's very strong physically. I know that she can play very good tennis," Halep said. "I expect a tough battle, I expect long rallies, but I feel fit. I feel good with my body. I'm ready to face her and tomorrow, hopefully, I will play better than today."