Belinda Bencic ended the impressive run of Australian qualifier Storm Sanders to advance to the semifinals of the Adelaide International.
Under lights at the Memorial Drive Centre Court on Thursday, second seed Bencic showed her experience and class in a 6-2 6-4 win over the West Australian.
The victory, achieved after an entertaining and high-quality second set, sets up a semifinal showdown with another qualifier in Coco Gauff.
The rising star won her fifth match in a row in Adelaide thanks to a come-from-behind triumph over fellow American Shelby Rogers.
Also progressing was Iga Swiatek, who was leading Danielle Collins 6-2 3-0 in the first evening match before Collins retired shortly after taking a medical timeout to treat a back injury.
Swiatek will next play Jil Teichmann, who won the first match of the day over former world No.11 Anastasija Sevastova.
In a match lasting almost three hours, Teichmann led 6-4 3-1 and held five match points in the second-set tiebreak, only for Sevastova to force a third set, in which she went ahead 3-0.
But there was to be another comeback, this time from Teichmann, who saved two match points of her own in the 10th game before going on to win 6-4 6-7(8) 7-5.
The Swiss will have just 24 hours to rest ahead of her clash with Swiatek, set for 3pm on Friday.
And she will need to make the most of that time, given the Polish teenager has been in devastating form so far this week in Adelaide.
Swiatek, the reigning Roland Garros champion, is yet to drop a set and was dominating Collins before the American ended the contest.
Swiatek smacked a backhand return winner down the line to take the first set, and repeated that stroke to break for a 2-0 lead in the second.
She opened the third game with an incredibly athletic point – which she won with a forehand volley winner – then struck a forehand winner to take a 3-0 lead.
Collins then exited the court for a medical timeout, and upon returning, played just three more points.
“That’s like the first time I’m in the semifinal of a WTA tournament since two years ago, actually, so I’m pretty excited,” said Swiatek, who indeed last progressed to the final four at a WTA event in Lugano in April 2019.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t finish, and I couldn’t play to the end. Hopefully Danielle’s gonna be well soon.
“Even though maybe she wasn’t in her best shape today, I played really good tennis, I felt really confident, so that’s the most important thing for me and that’s how I’m gonna keep going to the next round.”
Bencic and Sanders followed Swiatek onto court, with the Swiss dominating the opening set by sticking to the baseline and overwhelming the Australian with her excellent timing and pace of play.
The world No.12 opened a 6-2 2-0 lead before Sanders began to find the range with her powerful left-handed drives.
The qualifier broke back in the sixth game, and a series of rallies featuring magnificent ball-striking and court coverage unfolded.
The two women combined for 48 winners before Bencic ultimately served out the match to progress to her first semifinal since the 2019 WTA Finals in Shenzhen.
“She played amazing and I knew she was gonna be a really difficult opponent,” Bencic said of 292nd-ranked Sanders.
“I had a hard time getting used to her, how she plays, because I never played her before and she’s still kind of unknown. So I’m sure we’re gonna hear a lot (more of her) and it was a great tournament for her, so congrats to Storm.
“But I’m just generally really happy, I’ve won two matches here and I’m just getting my confidence back and I’m here in the semifinals.”
Bencic will next attempt to end the five-match winning streak of Gauff, who won her fourth consecutive three-set match in Adelaide on Thursday.
She trailed Rogers 6-2 4-2, and again fell behind 4-2 in the third, before staging a remarkable comeback thanks to points like these:
Gauff’s victory means she is undefeated in three WTA-level quarterfinals.
“Honestly I just kept playing. As long as there’s another point to play, you have a chance to win. So I just kept putting the ball in the court,” said Gauff, who has dropped the first set in three of her matches this week in Adelaide.
“It’s just who can stay out there mentally strong. We’re all good players and we all have a lot of experience on tour, and I think it’s just all about who can be mentally tougher.”