Roger Federer was taken to the limit, standing two points from defeat before squeezing out his 100th career victory at the Australian Open with a 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (10-8) nail-biter against local hope John Millman.
The four-hour epic which ended early Saturday morning came to a conclusion as the Swiss third seed ran off the last six points in the first 10-point tiebreaker ever staged to decide a fifth set at the event.
He now owns 100 victories both here and at Wimbledon, a record held by no other man in the sport.
“Thank god it was a super-tiebreaker, otherwise I would have lost,” a relieved and drained Federer said.
“John played a great match. It came down to the wire, there was a bit of luck maybe. I had to stay focused and take the right decisions.
“He kept coming up with the goods.”
Federer admitted that his chances were looking grim as he trailed 8-4 in the breaker.
“I was getting ready to explain myself in press, the demons are always there, lurking.
“I had to figure out how to get him in trouble on serve He was doing a nice job, not making too many mistakes. I was struggling and he was dominating, keeping me on the back foot.”
The 20-time Grand Slam champion who has won two of the three previous editions here, fired a forehand winner cross-court to finally secure an emotional victory.
Millman defeated Federer at the 2018 US Open.
The six-time Melbourne champion started slowly and paid the price as Millman won the opening set.
But the 38-year-old began to find rhythm after the initial setback and won the next two sets for a 2-1 lead.
Federer’s progress was interrupted in the fourth set, with Millman earning a break for 4-3 and consolidating with a hold, 5-3 before squaring the match at two sets each.
Millman managed an early break in the fifth but the Swiss kept knocking on the door in the fourth game and re-breaking on his third opportunity to get things back on serve before the set reached the deciding tiebreak stage.
Novak Djokovic dispatched his second straight Japanese opponent on Friday, defeating Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to power ahead to the Australian Open third round.
The seven-time Melbourne champion seeded second has only lost two career matches to Japanese opponents, most notably Kei NIshikori.
Victory puts Djokovic into the round of 16 at a major for the 50th time; Nishioka made an improvement on his last loss to the Serb after winning just three games in a heavy Davis Cup defeat two months ago in Madrid.
Djokovic moved into a match with Argentine pocket rocket Diego Schwartzman, a winner over Dusan Lajovic 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(7).
Djokovic saved a break point while serving for victory over Nishioka but finished off the afternoon as his Asian opponent drove wide after a relatively brief 87 minutes.
The winner lost just one point on serve during the first two sets.
“That doesn’t happen too many times,” Djokovic said. “This was one of my best serving matches lately.
“I must have been inspired by (coach) Goran (Ivanisevic) who arrived today.”
Djokovic said that during the brief off-season, he and his team concentrated on that shot.
“There are a lot of technical details we can talk about, but sometimes less is more.
“We focus on a few simple indicators. It’s all about rhythm and balance and the contact point for the shot.
“It’s all been working really well for me.”
Djokovic will carry a 3-0 record into his match with Schwartzman: “He’s one of the quickest players on the Tour, I will have to prepare some different tactics.
“Hopefully I can serve as good as today, I ten feel I would have a pretty good chance.”
Greek sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas became a notable upset victim, falling to former Canadian standout Milos Raonic 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(2).
“I felt a bit stupid returning his serves,” Tsitsipas said of the winner’s 19 aces. “I felt like I was slow.
“My anticipation was not there. it was a strange game of tennis in general.
“”I haven’t played him before, I didn’t know how he plays against other players.
“In the tiebreak, he was very, very aggressive. I was passive. He was doing a lot of damage with his forehand.”
The Greek reached the semi-finals a year ago after beating Federer in the fourth round.
Marton Fucsovic became the first Hungarian to go this far with his 6-1, 6-1, 6-4 defeat of American Tommy Paul to line up next against Federer.
Marin Cilic earned payback after twice losing here to Roberto Bautista Agut, defeating the Spanish ninth seed 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-0, 5-7, 6-3. Tennys Sandgren won an all-American match against Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.