Andy Murray heard a massive uproar coming from afar midway through his fourth round against Grigor Dimitrov yesterday on Rod Laver Arena.
It was the sound of the home crowd applauding Nick Kyrgios for reaching the quarter-finals and it is a sound Murray must get comfortable playing in when he faces the Aussie teenager in the last eight on Tuesday.
While Kyrgios had wrapped up a five-set win over Andreas Seppi, Murray was battling against the 10th-seeded Dimitrov, the Scot hoping to keep his streak of 15 consecutive major quarter-finals going.
It had been five years since the last time Murray had lost prior to the last eight at a grand slam and Dimitrov, who shocked the British No1 in Wimbledon last year, was hoping for a repeat last night.
The crafty Bulgarian made an intense start, opening up a 3-0 lead in the first set, but Murray soon responded and leveled for 3-all.
The world No6 broke against for a 5-4 lead and he sealed the set with an ace to draw first blood.
The pair exchanged breaks early in the second but it was Murray who broke for 6-5 and looked on his way to a two-sets-to-love lead. But Dimitrov had other plans, rushing the net and producing the perfect volley to get a break point and he made it 6-6 on a Murray double-fault.
Dimitrov, famous for his show-stopping hot shots, won an epic point to lead 4-2 in the tiebreak, running down a drop shot, responding with one of his own, then hitting a lob, which Murray smashes back only for the world No10 to send a backhand passing shot from the narrowest of angles. He took the tiebreak to make it one-set-all.
Murray retaliated by taking the third set but Dimitrov led 5-2 in the fourth. The 23-year-old had set point in a lengthy eighth game but Murray saved it to run away with five straight games and complete a 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-5 victory with a lucky netcord.
All Dimitrov was left with was disappointment and a racquet he somehow managed to break in half.
“I'm not going to hide my disappointment. I'm pissed,” said Dimitrov afterwards. “I thought he returned really good today. My serve wasn't at the level that I wanted. I think that sort of made the biggest difference.”
On his part, Murray admitted he got lucky at certain points during the match but was generally pleased with his form and how his body felt during the three-hour 32-minute affair, which ended after midnight.
Against Kyrgios tomorrow, he knows he will have a different challenge across him, in the form of the home crowd. Murray has experience playing a home slam at the age of 19 but he says he was a very different kind of teenager than Kyrgios.
“He's more confident than I would have been at that age. I didn't feel like I was going to win these events when I was that age, but I read that he felt like he could win the Australian Open this year a few weeks ago. So he obviously backs himself a lot,” said Murray.
Earlier in the day, third-seeded Rafael Nadal and seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych earned victories to set-up a quarter-final against one another.
Nadal fended off six break points in the first set against South Africa’s Kevin Anderson before cruising past him 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 while Berdych broke many Australian hearts by easing past Bernard Tomic 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-2.
Berdych has lost his last 17 meetings with Nadal, including a Wimbledon final defeat to the Spaniard in 2010. The Czech refuses to dwell on that poor record though.
“I'm feeling very good. It's been a great, great run so far,” said Berdych who is through to his fifth straight Australian Open quarter-final. “I just put myself in the best possible position right now. I'm just really looking forward to it. I'm going to have to add something extra again. I'm feeling strong both like physically, mentally.”
Nadal played his best match of the tournament so far against Anderson and seems to have stepped up a gear entering the second week. He says his strong record against Berdych will have little impact on their match on Tuesday though.
“Is different story this time. Different moment for me, different moment for him,” said the 2009 Australian Open champion. “He's a great player. I have success against him, but I have the chances to lose against him. I remember 2012 probably I had a very, very tough match against him here. It was close to be two sets to love down. He's a player that is top level.”