No.8 seed Ons Jabeur began by putting on a tennis clinic, but eventually had to fight back from a break down in the third set before overcoming Tereza Martincova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in the third round of the Qatar TotalEnergies Open.
The 1-hour, 36-minute victory put the Tunisian into the Doha quarterfinals for a second time. In 2020, she reached the last eight of a WTA 1000 event for the first time here - and like that year, her symbiotic relationship with the Middle East crowd was on full show. Jabeur's shotmaking repertoire had Centre Court in raptures, and her victory was greeted with extended chants and songs in celebration.
The 27-year-old will next take on good friend and No.4 seed Anett Kontaveit's seven-match winning streak as she bids for her first Doha semifinal.
More from Doha: Kontaveit edges former champ Mertens to reach QF
Scoreboard rollercoaster: Jabeur could do no wrong in a 24-minute first-set exhibition of creativity and finesse. There were volleyed lobs from behind the service line, there were all-court cat-and-mouse exchanges in which she seemed to invent new strokes on the fly, there was all-out power for return winners in the corners. And there was a solid foundation in a 77% first-serve percentage, and consequently the loss of only one point behind her delivery.
In the face of this onslaught, Martincova controlled the only controllable: her serve. The Czech had landed 59% of her first serves in the first set, but missed just one in the second. She dropped four points behind her delivery in the second act, and for her this was a foundation for waiting out Jabeur's purple patch - which, sure enough, ebbed away gradually.
Consecutive backhand errors from Jabeur enabled Martincova to break for 4-3, and the World No.42 sealed out the set with some magic of her own as she nailed a forehand pass down the line.
Turning point: A still-inconsistent Jabeur fell behind 2-0 in the decider, but showed signs of a renaissance as she pulled off a pass of her own to break back. The shot that swung the match back under her control was even more on-brand, though. Martincova held game point to move up 4-3, but Jabeur denied her with the cheekiest of dropshot returns.
From that point on, Jabeur was back in the zone. Another flurry of dazzling winners saw her reel off 11 of the last 13 points, sealing victory with - of all things - a sliced backhand pass that floated past Martincova to land just out of reach.
Sabalenka sweeps into quarterfinals
2020 Doha champion Aryna Sabalenka had a much easier time on Wednesday, as the No.1 seed from Belarus cruised into her first quarterfinal of the year, dismissing Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann 6-2, 6-1 in just over an hour.
Coming into the match, Sabalenka had lost three of her four matches to players outside the Top 40 this season, but she brought her most overpowering play against 41st-ranked Teichmann in their first meeting.
"It was an amazing match, I really played well today," Sabalenka said afterwards. "She played well as well, but maybe I was a little bit more lucky today. The atmosphere was unbelievable, so I enjoyed every second on court."
World No.2 Sabalenka slammed 26 winners, impressively doubling her unforced error count of 13. Notably, Sabalenka did not have any double faults in the match after being plagued with those earlier in the season.
Aryna Sabalenka d. Jil Teichmann 62 61 to advance to the #QatarOpen QFs.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) February 23, 2022
Sabalenka finished a match with 0 double-faults for the 6th time in her career.
The last time she struck 0 double-faults in a match was 2020 Doha vs. Sakkari. pic.twitter.com/9WaOgnum0p
After falling behind an early break, Teichmann broke Sabalenka back at love to reach 2-2 in the first set. However, Sabalenka kicked into high gear from there, with fierce forehands and blistering returns helping her grab the next six games in a row for a 6-2, 2-0 advantage.
Teichmann got back on the scoreboard in the next game but she was unable to quell the fiery play from Sabalenka, who knocked off the final four games of the encounter to sweep into the last eight.
In the quarterfinals, Sabalenka will meet No.7 seed Iga Swiatek, who defeated Daria Kasatkina in straight sets. Sabalenka won her only prior meeting with Swiatek, in the round-robin portion of last year's Akron WTA Finals.
Muguruza rolls into last eight
Two-time Doha finalist Garbiñe Muguruza also had a quick tilt on Wednesday. The 5th-seeded Spaniard dispatched Madison Brengle of the United States 6-0, 6-2 in just 63 minutes to reach the Doha quarterfinals for the fifth time in her career.
Former World No.1 Muguruza saved all three of the break points she faced, while breaking World No.60 Brengle five times in their first meeting. Muguruza claimed exactly two-thirds of points returning the Brengle second serve, and had 29 winners to the American's six.
Muguruza is seeking her first Doha title this week after falling in the final in 2018 and last year. Both times, she lost in the championship match to Petra Kvitova.
Next up for Muguruza will be a quarterfinal clash with No.15 seed Jelena Ostapenko, who is on an eight-match winning streak. Muguruza is 3-1 against last week's Dubai champion Ostapenko, although this will be their first meeting since 2017.