MELBOURNE -- It hasn't always been easy for Magdalena Frech to smile on a tennis court. The 26-year-old from Poland has spent much of her career fighting tooth and nail to just stay in the Top 100 on the Hologic WTA Tour. She finally broke the Top 100 in 2021, but for the first time in her career, she finished the year inside the Top 100 last season. 

After hitting her career-high at No.63 in November, Frech went into her pre-season ready to make a commitment to herself.

"After the pre-season when I worked so hard, I told myself I want to just have fun on the court," Frech said. "I don't want to [put] pressure on me, and I don't want to be scared on the court. I just wanted to play my game."

Three weeks into the new season and Frech has made good on her promise. In Hobart, she scored an affirming three-set win over Sara Sorribes Tormo. She took her new smiling attitude into the Australian Open and scored back-to-back wins to make the third round of a Slam for the second time in her nine-year career.

On Wednesday, Frech stunned 16th-seeded Caroline Garcia 6-4, 7-6(2) in the second round for her first career Top 20 win. One round earlier, she came through a rollicking three-set effort to defeat Australia's Daria Saville 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-5 -- at 3 hours and 13 minutes, the longest women's match of the tournament so far.

Photos: All of 2024's three-hour matches

Now she has a big opportunity to make the second week of a major for the first time in her career. She'll face 190th-ranked qualifier Anastasia Zakharova on Friday.

Update: French defeated Zakharova 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 to advance to her first Round of 16 at a Slam. She will face US Open champion Coco Gauff for a spot in the quarterfinals. 

Of course, attitude can only get you so far. Frech credits the work she put in during the off-season to evolve into a more aggressive player. Long-time observers of her game will have immediately taken notice of her change of tactics in Melbourne. Long known for being a scurrying baseliner, Frech credits her more aggressive shot-making for her progress this week. 

"After the pre-season when I start my season in Auckland, I tried to do this in the first match," Frech said. "And it worked after 6-love in the first which I lost. It worked in the second and third set.

"I said, 'That's it, that's the key.' I can win with other players, with top players like this. I don't want to just be defender, like defend every point."

Like much of the tennis world, Frech had her eyes on Garcia's first-round win over Naomi Osaka. The match was a masterclass in serving and first-strike tennis. Frech was under no illusions that she could match Garcia's firepower, but she knew she had some tricks up her sleeve to unwind the former World No.4.

"It's a different perspective from the TV and different on the court," she said. "So I was prepared for bombs today. After two games I knew I have to be more aggressive and near the baseline because I was two meters behind. 

"Caroline played so hard. She hits so hard the ball. I knew I had to play faster and take her time [away]. "I think I did it well, and mentally I was on the court."

On paper, it would be easy to overlook Frech's aggressive tactics. She hit just 18 winners to Garcia's 43. But her disciplined, purposeful hitting also forced 34 errors. And in a surprising turn, Frech dominated the shorter rallies, winning 85 of the 158 rallies (54 percent) that lasted fewer than eight shots.  

More aggressive play means shorter points and a lighter physical burden as well, a benefit Frech says she's already feeling. She feels lighter, fresher and happier. Suddenly, tennis is fun again.

"I think it was too much pressure on me," Frech said. "I wanted [it] too much. I wanted to win too much. Before the match I was even scared sometimes. I didn't want to win, you know? I was just thinking to play, but not to win. 

"Now I'm ready to win, and I know this."

Frech overcomes Sorribes Tormo in seesaw Hobart opener