MELBOURNE, Australia - In nearly three hours, No.6 seed Elina Svitolina advanced to the second week of the Australian Open.
The Ukrainian rallied from two breaks down in the final set to defeat former quarterfinalist Zhang Shuai, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 inside Rod Laver Arena on Thursday.
The No.6 seed trailed 3-0 a dramatic final set which lasted over an hour on its own, as the Chinese No.2 showed the form that took her to the last eight with upsets of Simona Halep and Madison Keys two years ago, before she ran off five straight games to serve for the match.
Svitolina's escape was yet to be authored, however, as Zhang won the next two games to draw level, before the match would through to a dramatic conclusion which saw the 24-year-old reach the second week for the second straight year.
"It was great fight today, I think for both of us. I think we left everything on court," Svitolina said after the match.
"Ee played a long match, so I'm very pleased that I could get the win today. I had my chance to play, to finish the match, and on 5-3. she played a very solid game.
"She returned really good, and I served really two big serves on 30-All. She was there. She was on time. It was very tough to close on that game. I was just trying to fight and trying to earn another chance...and I got it and was really happy I could step up."
From 4-2 up in the first set, Svitolina lost four straight games, as the pinpoint accuracy that Zhang displayed in her breakout fortnight two years ago was on full display.
Zhang doubled Svitolina's total of winners in the opening set, hammering 20 to the Ukrainian's 10, and served at 73 percent.
"I think she's a good player. She strikes the ball very good, and I missed my chances. I was leading 4-2 - I didn't take them and she played some great tennis," the Ukrainian assessed.
"She took the advantage of being more aggressive than me, and I think this was what made a difference in the first set, and then I tried to regroup. In the end, I was happy that I could get back in the match."
To reach the quarterfinals in back-to-back years, Svitolina might have to avenge a result from a year ago: in the round of 16, she will face either No.14 seed Elise Mertens, who defeated her in the last eight last year, or No.17 seed Madison Keys.
"We played couple of times. We played in Canada last year and also here. It's another tough battle, and there is no easy matches here. I'm going to enjoy tonight, my win, and see -- now I have time to prepare," she said.
"She's a solid player in general because she's a top, what, 15? She been playing some great tennis. She been beating some top players. You have to be all-around player, to be consistent, to win tournaments, to beat top players. She's quite a solid player.
"We all know [Keys] hits the ball very strong. It's not a big surprise for anyone, and I have to be ready for those kind of balls. [I] have had tough matches with both players."