Roger Federer played for time after being stunned by the setting sun, holding his nerve for a dramatic 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5 turnaround victory and a semifinal place over Nikolay Davydenko at the Australian Open.
The Swiss top seed trailed 6-2, 3-1 as the Russian who had won their last two matches had his way early in the contest.
But a strategic toilet break after dropping the first set may have helped in the Swiss salvation, with Federer taking his time in hopes that the sun would move down the horizon just that extra little bit.
“Maybe it would set by one or three centimetres,” joked the world number one who has now reached a record 23 straight Grand Slam semifinals. “I struggled with the sun on the side and with him playing so well “It was like a rain delay, you hang on and hope.”
Federer kicked into top gear in the nick of time, his mighty game coming to the fore on the way to a 13-2 record against the Russian who ended last season by taking the year-end championships and began this one with a title in Doha.
“I’ve played him many times, he goes through phases,” said Federer, whose top ranking would have been under threat from Novak Djokovic had he lost. “He can play rock solid but also a notch below.
“I had to stay positive. I’m surprised I played that great. I’m happy to beat a player like him.” Federer served for the match in the fourth set leading 5-4 only to be knocked by the Russian sixth seed.
“He gave me three winners, three screamers,” said Federer. “I was thinking ‘why did you do that, just one in the net and we’re done here.’ “There was a bit of luck involved for me. But I also played very well,” said the Swiss, who struck 43 winners and broke on eight of 14 occasions.