Dubai - Ons Jabeur beat Alison Riske 7-6 (7/3), 1-6, 6-3 on Monday at the Dubai Championships to earn a second-round date with top seed Simona Halep.
The Tunisian who trains in Dubai was encouraged by football-level support from flag-waving Tunisian fans.
"I'm so grateful for the crowd, they really gave me energy. It feels like home here," said Jabeur.
"Alison is tough, she made me run everywhere, I was down in the second set but got it back in the third," added the first Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final last month at the Australian Open.
Jabeur lost the first eight points and missed a pair of set points in the 10th game before it went into a tie-breaker.
She led 5-0 in the decider and took the set on her fourth opportunity.
But the momentum shifted in the second set, with Riske taking a 5-0 lead before a Jabeur took a medical time out for blisters.
Barbora Strycova turned a corner after a poor start this season as she defeated US teenager Amanda Anisimova 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 6-4, winning only her second match of 2020.
The 18-year-old Anisimova managed 43 winners but was weighed down by 67 unforced errors in a struggle lasting just over two-and-a-half hours.
"It wasn't really a great match from both sides, the balls were flying everywhere, it was a struggle to keep them on the court," the 33-year-old Dubai-based Strycova said.
"But I got through the match and I'm happy to be in the second round," the 2016 finalist said of a contest played in the heat of a desert day.
"I like to compete and have the feeling of winning matches," added the 2019 Wimbledon semi-finalist.
Strycova ended with 23 winners and 43 unforced errors and swept five of the last six games to advance.
Belgian four-time Grand Slam winner Kim Clijsters was making a return to tennis later Monday after playing her last WTA match in 2012, with the 36-year-old taking on fellow former major champion Garbine Muguruza.