Second seed Andy Murray had his feathers ruffled but scrapped his way into the Australian Open quarter-finals with a 6-4 6-4 7-6(4) victory over local hope Bernard Tomic on Monday.
The Briton, four-times a runner-up at Melbourne Park, was close to exasperation after being broken four times by the unorthodox Australian world number 17 but dug deep when it mattered to reach the last eight for the seventh year in a row.
“It was a tough match, both of us had our chances,” Murray said. “Bernie fought his way to the end and made it difficult for me. It was a scrappy match, I don’t think either of us played our best tennis at the same time.”
Murray had endured a tricky couple of days since Nigel Sears, the father of his pregnant wife Kim, collapsed in the stands on Rod Laver Arena and was taken to hospital while the Scot was playing his third round tie on Margaret Court Arena.
As Sears, the coach of Ana Ivanovic, has since been discharged and cleared to join his daughter in England, Murray hoped he would have a calmer preparation for his quarter-final encounter with Spanish eighth seed David Ferrer.
“Last few days there’s been a lot of emotions, things changing a lot in my head,” the 28-year-old said.
“It was good to get through today and I’ll rest up and hopefully I’ll be a bit more relaxed for the next one.”
Relaxed was clearly not the word for his demeanour on Monday as Tomic’s occasionally brilliant shot-making foxed him.
Murray enjoyed success with the drop shot early in the match but that started to wane in a match that was always interesting if never turning into a real contest.
Tomic, 23, showed flashes of the quality that has had Australia raving about his potential since his early teens but was unable to maintain the level of his performance for sufficiently long periods to cause an upset.
Murray, who fired 18 aces and 43 winners, clinched a topsy turvy third set in the tiebreak when Tomic went long with a return after two and a half hours on court.
“I just felt I was very uncomfortable,” Tomic, who dropped serve three times in the first set, said.
“While on paper it looked like a close match it was uncomfortable for me. I didn’t play the game the way I wanted to but he didn’t let me.”
After Johanna Konta earlier earned her place in the quarter-finals, Murray’s victory means Britain will have a presence in the last eight of both draws of a grand slam for the first time since the 1977 Australian Open.
Murray has his eye firmly fixed on becoming Britain’s first men’s champion in Australia since Fred Perry in 1934 but he must get past Ferrer to do it.
“He always makes you work hard,” he said of the 2013 semi-finalist. “It will be a tough match.”