Defending champion, Roger Federer, survived an epic third-round encounter in the Australian Open with a 6-7 (5/7) 7-6 (7/1) 5-7 6-1 10-8 win over Janko Tipsarevic on Saturday.
The world’s number one, who has not lost in Melbourne since his defeat to Marat Safin in the semi-finals three years ago, appeared to be heading for a shock-early exit as a foot injury and a red-hot opponent threatened to derail his bid for a third successive title.
However, the Swiss master, who has reached the last four of the past 14 grand slam tournaments’ semi-finals, came from two sets to one behind to edge out Tipsarevic in four hours and 27 minutes.
His next opponent will be either Juan Monaco or Tomas Berdych.
Federer dropped a set at Melbourne Park for the first time since the 2006 final, when Serbian Tipsarevic produced the shot of his life on set point during the opening tie-breaker.
His cross-court backhand left Federer flat-footed and trailing a match at this venue for the first time since Marcos Baghdatis took a one-set lead in the 2006 decider.
Tipsarevic was even more determined in the second set, failing to concede his serve despite Federer having five opportunities to break him.
Yet, the three-times champion did not even give the world number 49 a look during the tie-breaker, winning it 7-1.
Federer looked to have regained the momentum when he broke early in the third, but Tipsarevic battled back to level and it was apparent that the champion was in for a difficult match.
The decisive moment came in during the ninth game when Tipsarevic faced two set points on his serve and held off both.
Federer went on to lose his way and his serve in the next game, allowing Tipsarevic to serve out for a two-sets-to-one lead with a 7-5 success in the third set.
Federer again got an important early break in the fourth, but this time was able to capitalise on it as Tipsarevic’s spirit of adventure got the better of him.
The Serbian played a number of ill-advised drop shots which Federer pounced on, and the match was levelled at two sets apiece after just 33 minutes.
However, Tipsarevic was not going to be overwhelmed, and once more took the match to Federer in the deciding set.
The first 16 games went with serve before the top seed came from 40-0 down on the Serbian’s serve to get a vital edge with his second break point.
Federer then served out for the match, taking his second match-point opportunity.