MELBOURNE • One point was all that separated Nick Kyrgios and his conqueror Grigor Dimitrov yesterday.
The third seed edged the Australian Open fourth-round thriller 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4) 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), winning 157 total points to Kyrgios' 156 at Rod Laver Arena.
While Australia's wait for a men's champion will now stretch to 43 years, Dimitrov will go into a quarter-final with unseeded British player Kyle Edmund brimming with belief that a first Grand Slam title is within reach.
The 26-year-old showed enormous resilience and nerve to subdue a ferocious Kyrgios fightback, claiming victory after three hours and 26 minutes with a majestic forehand pass. As the combatants embraced, Kyrgios told Dimitrov to "believe" before the defeated 22-year-old left to a standing ovation. A year ago, it was jeers after a second-round meltdown.
"Playing against Nick is always tricky," Dimitrov said on court after absorbing 76 winners and striking 64 of his own.
"He was serving unbelievable. Playing unbelievable. Competing.
MELBOURNE PARK SNIPPETS
STAT OF THE DAY: 100
Croat Marin Cilic won his 100th Grand Slam match yesterday, defeating Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7 (2-7), 6-3, 7-6 (7-0), 7-6 (7-3) to reach the quarter-finals.
"He deserves a lot of credit. He fought really hard and it's one of the matches you have to be locked in."
Dimitrov, who won the ATP Finals last year, had to play high-octane tennis to take a high-quality opener in a tiebreak before a capacity home crowd willing their player on. In the second set, Kyrgios' only lapse arrived at 3-3 when he hit a backhand long to hand Dimitrov a break point and then casually messed up a volley.
JUST A NUMBER
I look cute and young! I don't think too much about the age thing.
HSIEH SU-WEI, Chinese Taipei's world No. 88, on being the oldest player in the last 16 of the women's singles draw. The 32-year-old faces 2016 champion Angelique Kerber, two years her junior, today.
For a few minutes, it seemed Kyrgios might unravel, but his growing maturity was evident as he re-grouped and seized on a tight service game by Dimitrov at 5-4, saving a set point, before breaking back.
But Dimitrov edged another tiebreak. Despite the deficit, Kyrgios' body language bristled with intent and he took the third set after breaking at 2-2.
The comeback looked on as Kyrgios cranked up his serving power, belting down four aces to level at 2-2 in the fourth. Yet his hopes faded when he buried a smash into the net to hand Dimitrov a 5-3 lead.
SELECTED 4TH RD RESULTS
MEN'S SINGLES: Grigor Dimitrov (Bul) bt Nick Kyrgios (Aus) 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 7-6 (7-4), Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt Diego Schwartzman (Arg) 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-3, Kyle Edmund (Gbr) bt Andreas Seppi (Ita) 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 6-2, 6-3.
WOMEN'S SINGLES: Carla Suarez Navarro (Esp) bt Anett Kontaveit (Est) 4-6 6-4 8-6, Caroline Wozniacki (Den) bt Magdalena Rybarikova (Svk) 6-3 6-0, Elise Mertens (Bel) bt Petra Martic (Cro) 7-6 (7-5) 7-5.
The drama was not over though, as Dimitrov wobbled when serving for victory. The Bulgarian served a double fault at 15-30 and then watched a backhand fly past him as Kyrgios broke back.
Both players held serve to love in the next three games before Dimitov clinched another tiebreaker.
"I lost tonight to one of the best players in the world," Kyrgios said.
"Went down swinging. Obviously I feel a lot better this time around (compared to last year)... I think I'm in a good head space."
Top seed Rafael Nadal also survived a feisty challenge yesterday, fending off Argentina's Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-3 to book a last-eight match with Croatia's Marin Cilic.
"You can't expect easy matches when you're playing in big tournaments," the world No. 1 said after saving all his seven break points in the final set. "It's always better winning in two hours than in four.
"It was a good test for me. Moments under pressure... moments like this helps to be more confident in yourself, in your body."
Day 8: Singtel TV Ch114/115 & StarHub Ch208/209, 8am