Halep downs battling Jabeur on fourth match point in Dubai

Bill SCOTT
Eye on the ball: Ons Jabeur serves to Simona Halep in their Dubai clash on Wednesday

Top seed Simona Halep needed four match points to see off Tunisia's Ons Jabeur on Wednesday, squeezing into the quarter-finals of the WTA Dubai Championships 1-6, 6-2, 7-6 (9/7).

"I don't know how I was able to finish this," said Halep who had to save a match point herself before progressing.

"It was up-and-down because she doesn't give rhythm. It was very weird, but I'm happy I could win."

The Wimbledon champion's win came after Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza re-established order among the top seeds after a run of upsets at the Aviation Club.

World number three Pliskova strolled to a 6-1, 6-2 defeat of qualifier Kristina Mladenovic in barely an hour, before ninth seed Muguruza took almost two-and-a-half hours to get past Russian Veronika Kudermetova 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.

Three big names had exited the day before -- defending champion Belinda Bencic, third seed Elina Svitolina and Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin.

The tense Halep match resembled a Fed Cup tie, with rival groups of Tunisian and Romanian fans out-shouting each other.

"It was like a football match or a Fed Cup match. I didn't really realise what was going on on court," added Halep.

"Everyone was with a lot of energy so we had to give our best. I think it was a great match."

Wildcard Jabeur, ranked 45, came from 4-2 down in the final-set tiebreaker, missing a match point of her own when she netted a forehand.

Halep, who lost the opening set in 26 minutes, eventually claimed victory when Jabeur drove long.

"It was a very tough match, she played well," Halep said. "I wanted to give all I had and just wanted to win. I didn't give up, I'm proud I fought to the end."

In the quarter-finals, Halep faces Belarusian seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka who defeated doubles partner Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-4, 6-3.

Pliskova pegged back Mladenovic after the Frenchwoman had earned only her first main-draw win of the season in the first round.

"It's always a tough one against her. We played in Australia, so I knew what to expect," Pliskova said.

"I was not playing amazing but still, even with a couple of mistakes, I didn't give up. The score looked a little bit easier than it really was, we had a couple of tough games."

Muguruza went into her match two days after beating Kim Clijsters in the Belgian's first WTA match since 2012.

"There's a lot of things that I could have done better," two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza said.

"But I'm excited that I gave myself another opportunity to be in the quarters."

Last month's Australian Open finalist added: "I'm just happy that I get these tough matches.

"Honestly, the difference is very, very small, I'm just pleased to go through."

Muguruza will bid for a semi-final place on Thursday, taking on Jennifer Brady, a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 winner against 2019 Roland Garros runner-up Marketa Vondrousova.