No.1 seed Ons Jabeur passed a tough test in the second round of the bett1open, saving a set point before quelling big-serving qualifier Alycia Parks 6-2, 7-6(8) in 1 hour and 31 minutes.
Jabeur had defeated Parks 6-4, 6-0 in their only previous meeting, on the green clay of the 2021 Charleston WTA 250 event. However, the American's formidable serve made their grass-court rematch substantially closer, and Jabeur barely escaped being forced into a third set.
The result puts Jabeur into her eighth quarterfinal of 2022, all at WTA 500 level or above. She will next face Aliaksandra Sasnovich as she bids to reach a fourth semifinal of the season.
Parks, 21, ultimately acquitted herself well in her first career meeting with a player ranked inside the Top 20. She departs Berlin having scored her first WTA 500 main draw victory, and first Top 50 win, over Zheng Qinwen in the first round.
Match management: With Parks fully committed to first-strike tennis, it was the World No.169 who set much of the match's tempo. She struck more winners than Jabeur, 18 to 13, but significantly more unforced errors as well, 31 to 17.
Many of the latter came during the first set-and-a-half. Jabeur gained a 6-2, 3-1 lead thanks to solid serving and a strategy of getting Parks on the run, invariably drawing mistakes from the lower-ranked player.
But Jabeur was nearly caught out when Parks raised her game - and then received a stroke of luck in the form of a dead net cord that enabled her to break back for 3-3. The Tunisian found herself battling her own inconsistency as she sought to escape a contest that had suddenly got a lot tighter.
Jabeur did manage to find some trademark magic at key points: a flicked backhand slice passing shot to save break point serving at 3-4, and a terrific defensive point to move up 5-3 in the tiebreak.
Closing the match out was another struggle, though. Jabeur squandered triple match point from 6-3, then needed to find some of her best forehands of the day to to save a set point at 6-7. But on her fifth match point, the World No.4 was finally able to advance thanks to an unreturned serve.
In Jabeur's words: "[It was] difficult to play with that [low] amount of rallies. Especially her serve is really fast, so I had to adapt my return. The second set, she started to play much better, and I had to take my chances when I had the break.
"It's tough, I should have taken my chances when I was serving [in the tiebreak]. I knew if it was gonna be 6-5 it would be really tough for me. But I'm glad I stayed calm afterwards."
Bencic repeats defeat of Kalinskaya
Seven days ago, Belinda Bencic came out on top of a first-time encounter with Anna Kalinskaya 7-6(2), 6-4 in the second round of 's-Hertogenbosch. Exactly a week later, the No.8 seed reprised that result 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 at the same stage of Berlin to reach her sixth quarterfinal of 2022.
A high-quality and tightly-contested first set was ultimately decided by one break of serve. At 4-4, a pair of double faults from Kalinskaya opened the door for Bencic, and the Swiss player seized her opportunity with aggressive returning before serving out the set efficiently.
Bencic continued to play brilliantly to immediately bring up triple break point in the first game of the second set - but after squandering all three chances, the match underwent a sudden momentum shift. The clarity in Bencic's shot selection dissipated, and was replaced by wild hitting. By contrast, Kalinskaya raised her level, particularly on serve, and sped through six out of seven games.
Bencic, runner-up here last year, reversed this swing with more dynamic play at the start of the decider. The 25-year-old swatted a drive volley away to break for 2-0, and dominated the set thereafter with a resumption of her first-set form. A superb angled forehand sealed a second break for 5-1, and a game later Bencic converted her first match point with a forehand down the line, her 35th winner of the day.