No.4 seed Elena Rybakina survived a stern test from qualifier Magdalena Frech in the third round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, coming from 5-3 down in the first set to eventually win 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4.

Rybakina had defeated Frech 6-4, 6-3 in their only previous meeting, in the first round of the 2018 Taipei WTA 125 event, but needed to battle for 2 hours and 39 minutes to put away the No.53-ranked Pole. Frech, who reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time at the Australian Open, is guaranteed to make her Top 50 debut next week.

Rybakina, the 2020 finalist, advances to her second quarterfinal in Dubai. She has made the last eight or better at five out of six tournaments so far in 2024, and her overall record is now 17-3. In the Middle East this month, she has won 10 out of 11 matches, winning the Abu Dhabi title a fortnight ago and reaching the Doha final last week.

The former Wimbledon champion will next face the unseeded Jasmine Paolini, who came from 3-1 down in the first set and 2-0 down in the second to upset No.8 seed Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-2. The Italian, who is currently at a career-high of No.24, has won five of her last six sets in Dubai from a break down; she advances to her second WTA 1000 quarterfinal following Cincinnati last August.

That tournament was also the site of Paolini's last meeting with Rybakina: she won their third round via retirement after injuries forced the Kazakhstani to pull the plug trailing 4-6, 5-2. However, Rybakina won their only completed meeting 7-6(4), 6-1 in the second round of Rome last May.

Elsewhere, No.7 seed Marketa Vondrousova also moved into the last eight, defeating No.12 seed Liudmila Samsonova 6-2, 6-2 in 75 minutes. The Wimbledon champion took advantage of 40 unforced errors from her opponent to reach her first quarterfinal since the US Open last year.

How the match was won: The challenge Frech posed was evident from the start, when she held two break points and stretched Rybakina to six deuces in the very first game. Though the 26-year-old couldn't convert that opportunity, she captured the first break of the match for 4-3.

Rybakina struggled for consistent accuracy on her groundstrokes throughout the match, tallying 60 winners to 57 unforced errors overall, but she found her best form to steal the first set. Frech was two points away from serving it out at 5-3, only for Rybakina to break back with a backhand laser down the line. In the ensuing tiebreak, Frech led 5-2 -- but Rybakina reeled off the last five points of the set, including two fine winners to end two of its longest exchanges.

Frech had kept the set close thanks to watertight defense, tallying five winners to nine unforced errors in the opener. She responded to its loss by upping her aggression, finding four clean winners to break Rybakina in the second game of the second set. Impressively, Frech did not have to sacrifice accuracy: she finished the set with 12 winners to only two unforced errors.

Though Rybakina saved the first three set points against her, Frech made no mistake serving this set out, converting her fourth opportunity with a finely angled backhand pass.

Neither player saw a break point chance through the first seven games of the decider. Serving performance would prove to be crucial to the outcome of the match -- and naturally, Rybakina had the advantage. She raised the efficiency of her delivery significantly, dropping only four points on serve through the third set; the decider also saw her land five of her 13 total aces.

Though Frech was able to escape the first break points of the set to level at 4-4, Rybakina pounced again in her next return game. After putting away a volley to bring up a pair of match points, Rybakina converted the second as Frech sent a backhand long.

In Rybakina's words: "I would say that I still didn't get used to these courts. The movement is still a bit off. The timing... I think just physically I'm a bit tired. 

"I'm happy that I'm still winning the matches. But I can see by the level that of course physically and everything, it's dropping a bit. I don't know how much I can push and how much I can recover in this half day.

"I mean, we see because, as I said before, it's good problem to have. No one expected me to play so many matches in the past two weeks. I think it's already good what I'm doing. Whatever happens this week, I know that there is other tournaments in front. I'm not a machine that can work every day the same in the end of the day."