Daniil Medvedev secured a fourth consecutive fourth round Australian Open appearance by dismantling Botic van de Zandschulp in straight sets on Saturday.
The second seed won a 6-4 6-4 6-2 battle that spanned one hour and 55 minutes, and one that featured scintillating shot-making and tension-filled exchanges.
On a warm afternoon, a hushed silence swept across Margaret Court Arena as the duo leapt straight into long rallies, including a 33-stroke point in the opening game.
Medvedev, frequently on the attack, clinched the match's first break, edging ahead to a 2-1 lead after delivering a superb running forehand winner.
The unseeded Van de Zandschulp, hunting a career-first win over a top-five opponent, didn't panic. Instead, the quick-footed Dutchman responded with a slew of winners including a drop shot that landed exactly on the line.
The 26-year-old created two break point opportunities of his own as Medvedev served for the opener at 5-4. But the Russian nonchalantly saved both, following up with an ace down the tee at 186km/h to snag the first set.
Medvedev raced to an early 2-1 advantage again in the second, as his Dutch rival dumped a backhand overhead into the net to concede a break.
Van de Zandschulp, the only player to take a set off 25 year-old Medvedev during the Russian's run to a maiden Grand Slam title at last year's US Open, avoided falling behind by a double break in the fifth game. He immediately had a chance the level the set at 3-3, only to be denied by Medvedev, who slammed another huge serve down the middle.
Unfazed by fans rooting for his underdog opponent who is now guaranteed to crack the top 50, Medvedev placed a booming serve down the middle yet again to close out the second set.
The world No. 2, who has never lost from a two-sets-to-love lead on a hard court, clearly wanted to keep that record intact. Medvedev broke in the fifth game as Van de Zandschulp slapped a forehand long, and again in the seventh, with an unreturnable backhand that passed the Dutchman as he attempted to serve-and-volley yet again.
Trailing 2-5 and facing his first match point, Van de Zandschulp sent a final forehand wide to hand Medvedev the win.
"Of course I don't want to stop [at] the fourth round but I'm really happy," said Medvedev.
"[At a] Grand Slam, every round is very tough and even today if the score doesn't show this, I feel like it was a tighter match than the score."
Medvedev, a finalist in Melbourne Park last year, has his sights set a larger piece of silverware this fortnight. But the wiry right-hander isn’t even halfway there, and on Monday he'll face American Maxime Cressy, who survived a spirited challenge from Australian wildcard Christopher O’Connell, ultimately triumphing 6-2 6-7(6) 6-3 6-2.
The Russian has never stepped on court against Cressy, but isn't too worried about the unknown.
"I don't think it really matters too much," said Medvedev.
"Definitely will have to prepare well."