No.2 seed Paula Badosa survived an incredibly stern test in the Round of 16 of the Credit One Charleston Open on Thursday, overcoming Claire Liu 3-6, 7-6 (8), 6-1 to eke into the quarterfinals.
Badosa, a semifinalist in Charleston last season, had lost her two previous meetings against Liu in 2017 and 2018, when both were ranked outside of the Top 100. Liu came close to improving to 3-0 against Badosa, which also would have marked her first win over a Top 10 opponent.
However, Badosa, currently ranked at a career-high World No.3, charged back from the loss of the first set and gritted through a tense second-set tiebreak, eventually triumphing in two-and-a-half hours.
In only her second match against a Top 10 player, Liu started strong, breaking Badosa for a 5-3 lead and serving out the first set from there.
Badosa had a chance to level the match at 5-3 in the second set, but Liu broke the Spaniard and the pair moved into a tightly-contested tiebreak.
Liu was two points away from victory four times in the latter stages of the breaker, but she was never able to hold match point as the Badosa power game stayed solid. Badosa at last converted her fourth set point with a backhand winner to capture the 72-minute second set.
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After winning that battle, Badosa zipped through the third set to earn her first victory over Liu and queue up a quarterfinal showdown against former Top 5 player Belinda Bencic.
It will be a rematch on the green clay of Charleston: Badosa notched her first career Top 20 win over Bencic in Charleston just last year, in their first meeting. Badosa has beaten Bencic two more times since then.
Reigning Olympic gold medalist Bencic moved into the Charleston quarterfinals for the third time in her career, as the No.10 seed from Switzerland bested No.9 seed and former titlist Madison Keys of the United States 6-4, 6-4.
Keys had won two of their three previous meetings, but the 2019 Charleston champion was toppled by Bencic this time after an hour and 34 minutes of play, split by a roughly 2-hour rain delay directly after the first set.
Highlights: Bencic def. Keys
That first set was nearly taken by Keys, who led 4-3 and had three break points for 5-3. But Bencic charged back in that game to hold for 4-4, the won the next two games to swipe the one-set lead.
Keys was up a break in the second set at 4-2, but Bencic immediately pulled back on serve with a crunching return winner. The Swiss then moved ahead for good after another break for a 5-4 lead, and she forced an error from Keys with a forehand to convert her first match point in the final game.
Meanwhile, Magda Linette of Poland knocked out No.7 seed Leylah Fernandez of Canada 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a topsy-turvy affair, at last completing the second round which had been affected by numerous rain delays throughout the week.
World No.19 Fernandez, who had a first-round bye, never got onto court until Thursday, but the Canadian looked in control as she took the first set against 64th-ranked Linette.
However, Linette, who suffered a three-set loss to Fernandez at 2020 Roland Garros in their only prior encounter, took the second set to level affairs and line up a gripping decider.
Linette was up a break three times in the first eight games of the final set, and each time Fernandez was able to claw back on serve up to 4-4. Fernandez then had two game points to garner a crucial hold for 5-4, but Linette once again blasted her way to a service break.
Serving for the match at 5-4, Linette had to hold her nerve in a 17-minute final game, saving four break points before converting her seventh match point to pull off the upset.