Defending champion Simona Halep came from 5-2 down in the final set to beat Roberta Vinci 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7/2) to reach the third round of the Madrid Open.
Halep came perilously close to becoming the latest seed to fall in a decimated bottom half of the draw after early exits for Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza and Johanna Konta.
However, she managed to regroup in a see-saw final set as two breaks of serve saw her slip 5-2 behind before she rallied to come through on the tie-break.
“I was close to losing the match, but I stayed strong, stayed focused and I didn’t give up,” said Halep. “That makes this match much bigger for me. It means a lot.”
“I try to focus on myself a lot. As you saw today, I could have lost the match, so it doesn’t matter who is winning, who is losing. Every match is tough.”
Halep next faces Australian 16th seed Samantha Stosur who beat Colombia’s Mariana Duque-Marino in straight sets in round two.
Only three of the top 10 seeds remain as the woman Halep beat in last year’s final, Dominika Cibulkova, was swept aside 6-2, 6-4 by 20-year-old Frenchwoman Oceane Dodin.
Sky Sports coverage of the Mutua Madrid Open continues on Wednesday from 11am on Sky Sports 1