Garbine Muguruza and Aryna Sabalenka will square off for a second consecutive week as they both claimed statement victories to move into the Dubai quarter-finals on Wednesday.
The ninth-seeded Muguruza handed French Open champion Iga Swiatek a tough lesson as she cruised past the Polish teenager 6-0, 6-4 in just over an hour.
Sabalenka, the third seed, used her power game to the fullest extent to eliminate Estonian Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 6-2 and set up a revenge bout with Muguruza, who ousted her from the Doha second round last week.
“It’s always great battles playing against her (Muguruza). This time I will be focused from the beginning of the match and I’ll put pressure on her,” said Sabalenka, who is the last remaining top-eight seed in the draw.
“I’ll just try to work for every point and do my best and make sure I can get this win back.”
Muguruza, who owns a tour-leading 15 match-wins this season, is feeling confident ahead of her rematch with Sabalenka.
“Back-to-back matches is good. That means I’m playing the top players, that means I’m getting into the deep rounds. I’m looking forward for another battle,” said the two-time major champion.
Earlier in the day, Jessica Pegula handed Karolina Pliskova a second hefty defeat in as many weeks as she knocked out the sixth-ranked Czech 6-0, 6-2 to march into the quarter-finals.
The American world No 36, who enjoyed a breakthrough run to the quarters at the Australian Open last month, needed a mere 53 minutes to send Pliskova packing in even more dominating fashion than the straight-sets drubbing she gave her last week in Doha.
Pegula has now won 13 of her last 15 matches on tour and is through to the quarter-finals at a WTA 1000-level tournament for the second time in her career.
“This is definitely the best of any other year I’ve had (on tour),” said the 26-year-old.
“I’m just really happy I’m able to do it, especially in a time where, with the pandemic it’s been really hard to know what’s going to happen in the future, so I think also in a way maybe it helped me mentally not to take each match for granted.”
A Pliskova double fault handed Pegula an early break of serve and the American did not blink en route to a 20-minute 6-0 lead.
Pliskova started the second set on better footing, breaking serve in the opening game, but Pegula pegged her back and stormed to victory when her second-seeded opponent struck her seventh double fault of the match.
“Of course my tennis was not there but I think she has a lot to do with it,” said Pliskova.
“She’s playing super fast, she doesn’t mind my speed, so I have to give a lot of credit to her.”
Sixth seed and 2019 champion Belinda Bencic was another high-profile casualty as she fell to Russian teenager Anastasia Potapova 6-1, 2-6, 7-5 in a two-hour 17-minute battle.
Potapova, ranked 88 in the world, will next take on Czech world No 63 Barbora Krejcikova, who outclassed Russian three-time finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-2.
Belgian 10th seed Elise Mertens recovered from an early 1-3 deficit to overcome Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia 6-4, 6-2.
Mertens, who led the tour last season in match-wins, wrapped up the victory with her seventh ace of the contest and will battle Pegula for a place in the semi-finals.
American teenager Coco Gauff was also a winner on Wednesday and awaits the winner of the duel between Ons Jabeur and Jil Teichmann.
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) bt Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 6-3, 6-2
Anastasia Potapova (RUS) bt Belinda Bencic (SUI x6) 6-1, 2-6, 7-5
Jil Teichmann (SUI) bt Ons Jabeur (TUN) 6-3, 6-3
Coco Gauff (USA) bt Tereza Martincova (CZE) 6-4, 6-2
Garbine Muguruza (ESP x9) bt Iga Swiatek (POL x8) 6-0, 6-4
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x3) bt Anett Kontaveit (EST x15) 6-3, 6-2
Elise Mertens (BEL x10) bt Caroline Garcia (FRA) 6-4, 6-2
Jessica Pegula (USA) bt Karolina Pliskova (CZE x2) 6-0, 6-2