Andy Murray extended one impressive streak and will need to maintain another to keep his bid for a third grand slam title on course in the Australian Open.
Murray secured his 16th consecutive grand slam quarter-final appearance yesterday with a rollercoaster victory over Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round in Melbourne.
The 27-year-old looked set to be dragged into a decider when Dimitrov led 5-2 in the fourth set, but won the next five games to complete a 6-4 6-7 (5/7) 6-3 7-5 success in just over three and a half hours.
The thrilling contest started on Sunday evening local time but fittingly stretched into the first hour of Australia Day, with Murray now set on improving his perfect 10-0 record against Australian players at tour level when he takes on home favourite Nick Kyrgios for a place in the semi-finals tomorrow.
The 19-year-old had earlier saved a match point as he came from two sets down to beat Roger Federer’s conqueror Andreas Seppi 8-6 in the fifth set.
“Obviously the crowd will be right behind him. Understandably so,” Murray said. “They’re going to watch him play a lot of matches like this over the next 10, 15 years probably.
“That’s just something that I’ll have to deal with in my way. I’ve played a lot of matches. I’ve played in the French Open against French players where the crowd can be very difficult. I’ve experienced it before, so hopefully I’ll deal with it well.
“I’ve tried my best to prepare as well as I could for all of the slams over the last five, six years. I think my results have showed I have played my best tennis, or played very consistent tennis, at the slams. It’s not easy to get to the latter stages of these events. Obviously I had some physical issues as well the last 18 months or so, so it’s nice. Hopefully I can use that experience of being in these situations before in a couple of days time.”
Murray weathered an early storm from world No 11 Dimitrov, who raced into a 3-0 lead before Murray won six of the next seven games to claim the opening set.
That set the pattern for an unpredictable contest with Murray twice going a break up in the second set and serving for it at 6-5, only to crack under the pressure and serve a double fault to allow Dimitrov to get back on level terms.
Trailing 3-2 in the tie-break, Murray then failed to put away an overhead at full stretch to allow Dimitrov a backhand winner down the line and the 23-year-old went on to take the set in 70 minutes.
“I thought he started the match extremely well,” Murray added. “He came out very aggressive, very explosive. But it’s tough to keep that sort of level of intensity up and once I got myself into the match I felt like I was able to dictate a lot of the points.
“I thought tactically I played a good match. I was disappointed with the 6-5 game I played in the second set. Also the tie-break I made a few bad decisions.”
Murray was furious with umpire Jake Garner for failing to spot that the ball had bounced twice before Dimitrov hit it during the fifth game of the third set, but thankfully won the point and a single break in the eighth game was also enough to win the set.
Dimitrov, who ended Murray’s reign as Wimbledon champion in the quarter-finals last year, had recovered from two sets to one down to beat Marcos Baghdatis in the third round and threatened to force another decider when he led 5-2 in the fourth set.
But Murray crucially saved a set point to force Dimitrov to serve it out and then won the next four games as well, prompting the Bulgarian to furiously smash his racket into the ground before standing on it to ensure he had broken it fully in half.
Teenager Kyrgios staged a brilliant comeback to beat Andreas Seppi in five sets.
Kyrgios said: “It’s crazy. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet.
“When I saw I had finally won the match it was incredible. It was the best feeling I ever had.
“To know the body could come back from two sets to love, knowing I haven’t had matches, it’s just massive confidence.
“I drew on my experience from Wimbledon last year, coming back from two sets down against (Richard) Gasquet. I knew I had the legs to do it,” added the 19-year-old.
Rafael Nadal faces Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals.
Nadal had to save six break points in the opening set of his fourth-round clash with Kevin Anderson before easing to a 7-5 6-1 6-4 victory, while Berdych saw off home hope Bernard Tomic 6-2 7-6 (7/3) 6-2.
Seventh seed Eugenie Bouchard booked her place in the women’s quarter-finals, beating Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu 6-1 5-7 6-2. Bouchard will play second seed Maria Sharapova in the last eight, after she beat China’s Shuai Peng 6-3 6-0.
Tenth seed Ekaterina Makarova will face Simona Halep, who beat Yanina Wickmayer 6-4 6-2.
Makarova defeated Julia Goerges 6-3 6-2 to reach the last eight for the third time in four years.
Fourth seed and Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova became the biggest casualty of the women’s singles so far as she lost in straight sets to American teenager Madison Keys 6-4 7-5.