Roger Federer stared down defeat and saved two match points before knocking Tomas Berdych out of the Miami Open on Thursday with a 6-2 3-6 7-6(6) victory in their thrilling quarter-final.
Federer will next face Nick Kyrgios on Friday after the 12th seeded Australian edged German teenager Alexander Zverev 6-4 6-7(9) 6-3 in an evening quarter-final, finally clinching victory on his sixth match point.
Swiss magician Federer had to call upon all his resources of skill, poise and experience to edge the Czech in a third set tiebreak in front of a frenzied crowd at Crandon Park.
Berdych served for the match at 6-4 in the tiebreak but Federer reeled off four points in a row, including two unplayable serves, and secured the win when the 10th seed crumbled with an awful second serve.
Federer conceded he had rode his luck at times to advance.
"I’ve had some tough losses here where I should have won. They stay with you so I’m happy today to have come through somehow,” he said courtside.
"I definitely got very lucky at the end but I think I showed great heart today and I fought. Tomas really stepped it up and it was a great match at the end but one guy had to win.”
Australian Open champion Federer, who also won at Indian Wells two weeks ago, is playing some of the best tennis of his career and appears completely recovered from a knee injury that kept him out of the second half of last year.
The 35-year-old is 17-1 this season, his only loss a surprise defeat to Russian Evgeny Donskoy in Dubai.
Federer has won all seven of the tiebreaks he has faced during his current American campaign.
“I enjoy winning breakers because those are the ones that are going to make you win a tournament or not sometimes,” he said.
“(My thought process is) don’t mess up, hit a few aces, stay aggressive on the return, all those silly things that never work but they seem to be working now.”
In the tiebreak, Berdych hit a backhand winner into the corner to set up two match points, the first on serve, but netted a forehand to squander the first.
Federer saved the second match point with a superb first serve and set up his own with an ace down the middle. The pressure reverted to Berdych and this time he cracked, his second serve landing closer to the baseline than the service line.
Kyrgios is looking forward to facing Federer after pulling out of their scheduled Indian Wells quarter-final with a virus.
“He’s my favourite player, so I’m going to enjoy the moment,” said the 21-year-old, who won their only career meeting, on clay in Madrid in 2015.
“He’s the greatest of all time. We don’t know how long he’s going to hang around so it’s a blessing.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; editing by Clare Lovell / Ian Ransom)