Hong Kong (AFP) - World number five Elina Svitolina said she was playing "mean" and "angry" at the Hong Kong Open Thursday as she targets a place at the WTA Finals Singapore.
The top seed breezed through her second round tie to set up a crunch quarter final clash Friday with China's number one Wang Qiang.
The match will be a repeat of August's US Open third round contest, which the Ukrainian won in straight sets.
"I was really angry today," said the Rome champion, who is battling four other players, including Karolina Pliskova, for the final three places in Singapore.
"We're in the race for Singapore -- I want really bad to be there."
The 24-year-old added she knew what to expect from Wang, who she said was helping spearhead the development of Chinese tennis.
"I'm just going to try and bring my best game tomorrow and try and play as mean as I played today."
Svitolina looked in ominous form Thursday as she brushed aside Japan's Nao Hibino for the loss of just three games.
Her Friday opponent is also coming off the back of a hot streak which has seen her win two WTA titles in just four months.
Sixth seed Wang also only needed two sets to get past American Christina McHale 7-5, 6-1.
"I think I played really well tonight, so I have nothing to lose tomorrow," she said.
Now ranked 24, Wang is chasing more WTA titles to go with the two she picked up in July and September in Nanchang and Guangzhou.
She added: "I think next year the target is top 20."
The Australian needed a third set tiebreaker -- which she closed out with an emphatic smash -- to finally break her resilient Romanian opponent, whose forehand slice and confident net play unnerved the seventh seed.
Gavrilova started the match in cruise control but her game started to unravel towards the end of the first set as unforced errors crept in, and Niculescu fought back with an armoury that also included a powerful double-handed backhand.
"I probably was getting a bit too emotional and frustrated because I felt like I was dictating, but I was making too many errors," Gavrilova said.
"I stepped up my game but I wasn't really happy with the way I was going from super good to not great."
The 24-year-old described Niculescu as a "fighter" but added she had not made it easy for herself as she ground out the 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7/3) win.
"I was losing concentration -- I was really more mentally tired than physically and that is probably where the errors came from."
But after two three-set matches so far this week, she now faces China's number two Zhang Shuai, who wrapped up a 6-1, 6-7 (4/7), 6-1 victory against the Netherlands' Lesley Kerkhove.
Speaking after the win, Zhang said she felt "everything is coming together".
She added: "I like playing Asia, I like playing China, Hong Kong -- I'm feeling happy here."