Men's singles fourth round
Andrey Rublev roared back from the brink, saving two match points in a rollercoaster match that he will "remember for the rest of my life," to return to the Australian Open quarterfinals.
The world No.6 gained revenge over Holger Rune with a turbulent 6-3 3-6 6-3 4-6 7-6[11-9] epic on Rod Laver Arena, collapsing to the court in disbelief.
Rune walked on to court hoping to extend a five-match winning streak against top-10 players.
The Dane achieved that quintet en route to the Paris Masters trophy in November, including a 6-4 7-5 defeat of Rublev in the third round.
Both stars had blazed through their opening three matches at Melbourne Park, but this was a step up in the test of their title credentials.
"I never feel like an underdog in my serve because I have so high ambitions every time I play," said Rune. "Even we played each other last year in Paris. I was still believing that I could beat him, and I did beat him."
The rapid rise of Rune is so impressive that world No.6 Rublev counted himself as second favourite going into the clash.
"I have nothing to lose against him next time, because he was the one who won our first match," said the 25-year-old. "So he will feel a bit pressure that he would like to win again."
Story of the match
This duo, brimming with raw power, was the first meeting between two top-10 players in the men's singles at AO 2023.
The incredible shotmaking was evidence of the level both are playing at.
The pair took their turn to command, took their turn to defend, the frequent momentum shifts making this an absorbing clash.
Each time it seemed one would pull clear, back roared the other with shots drawing gasps from the Rod Laver Arena crowd.
There was concern when Rune had his blood pressure checked at 2-1 in the fourth set. However, the tenacious teenager should never be counted out and returned to force a decider.
Energy was now emanating from the Danish prodigy. A sneak attack into the net was the telling move for a 3-1 lead. Rublev responded, his trademark inside-out forehand doing the damage, prompting his usual square-mouthed roar at having snatched back eight straight points to level at 5-5.
With three hours and twenty minutes on the clock, two match points quickly evaporated for Rune, without a clear chance in either.
This encounter deserved a match tie-break and it was the teenage sensation who sprinted to 5-0. Rublev then fired up his very best, a forehand nicking the tramline. With fortune favouring the brave, the world No.6 inched ahead.
There was more drama. At 9-8 Rune read a Rublev drive volley, scrambled to his left and ripped a 143 km/h backhand pass down the line.
Yet it was Rublev's day. At his third chance, the 25-year-old's backhand return clipped off the net cord and trickled over. A cruel way to end a mind-boggling battle.
"A rollercoaster is more easier," joked the elated victor.
"I was 5-2 down in the fitfh set, 6-5 down two match points, then 5-0 7-2 down in the super tie-break. In my life I've never been able to win matches like this.
"Especially to do it in a very special tournament like the Australian Open, to be in the quarterfinals is something I will remember for sure all my life. I have no words, I'm shaking!
"Of course, nobody wants to face Novak [Djokovic]. I'm just so happy to win this match. I'll enjoy this evening and we'll see what happens next."
Twenty-two aces, 58 winners, 64 per cent success rate at net (18/28), it was thrilling from start to finish from the fifth seed's racquet.
What this means for Rublev
Rublev has been on the cusp of major glory for a handful of seasons.
The 25-year-old has booked his second last-eight ticket in Melbourne, which is his seventh major quarterfinal. In this form a maiden semifinal wouldn't be a surprise.
A head-to-head record of 1-2 with both Novak Djokovic and Alex de Minaur offers up a cracking quarterfinal. It's definitely one not to be missed.
What's next for Rune?
Already in the top 10, this will be another painful but valuable lesson for the Dane. We're going to see him in the latter stages of the biggest tournaments for many years to come.
It will take time, but the 19-year-old can take much from this week.