Novak Djokovic overcame an abdominal injury, a racket-smashing implosion and the defensive wall of Alexander Zverev to edge into the semi-finals of the Australian Open.
Zverev had his opportunities to get a stranglehold on the contest but failed to force Djokovic to capitulate as the world No1 won 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6.
The 33-year-old looked less hampered by his injury – despite the fact both he and Zverev had strapping on their respective stomachs – more by the barrage of shots from the German, who was Djokovic-esque at times in terms of getting the ball back in play.
But his inability to have beaten any of tennis’ big three continues, although his quarter-final performance into the early hours in Melbourne suggests he is not far off.
There were all manner of key turning points. Zverev had a set point in the hour-long opening set tiebreak but could not convert it, and was then invisible in a one-sided second set lasting half the time.
But he bounced back in set three to race into a 4-1 lead, a passage of play in which Djokovic smashed his racket to smithereens in frustration. And yet Zverev produced two double faults in one service game – his first in the opening two hours of play – in game eight to hand the ascendancy back to the Serbian.
Zverev again had opportunities in what proved the final set, even a break and set point at 6-5 only for a Djokovic ace to save it before the eight-time Australian Open took the resultant tiebreak and the match with his 23rd ace of the night.