Last year’s finalist Marin Cilic survived a huge scare in the Australian Open third round Friday, surviving two match points before beating Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (10/8), 6-3.
The big-serving Croatian sixth seed was in danger of departing when he lost the first two sets against the 35-year-old Spaniard.
He ripped back 6-1 in the third and saved a first match point on his own serve during an edge-of-the-seat fourth set tiebreaker as the clock struck midnight.
Verdasco earned a second match point on his own delivery and then double-faulted to leave him tearing his hair out.
Cilic took it to a fifth and the still shellshocked 26th seed Verdasco dropped his serve straight away.
Cilic dug deep one last time at 4-2, 0-40, saving three break points and eventually secured the marathon come-from-behind victory in 4hr 18min just before 1:00 am.
“It was a tough match. The emotions were up and down,” said Cilic, who is into the fourth round at Melbourne for the sixth time.
“At two sets down it was a big hill to climb.”
Cilic lost a five-set thriller in last year’s final to Roger Federer and will face another Spaniard, 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the last 16.