Switzerland’s Roger Federer extended his winning streak to 25 matches to set up a mouth-watering quarter-final clash with Andre Agassi at the Australian Open.
The defending champion was taken to a tie-break for the first time in the championships before seeing off qualifier Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus 6-2 6-2 7-6.
Teenager Baghdatis was actually the last player to beat Federer in a tie-break when he took a set off the world number one in the second round of the US Open last year.
The former world number one junior even led 3-0 on the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne this morning, but lost the next five points as Federer turned on the style.
“I enjoyed the battle,” said the 23-year-old, whose three ‘exhibition’ victories at the Kooyong Classic last week over Gaston Gaudio, Tim Henman and Andy Roddick are not included in his winning streak.
“He didn’t play great in the first two sets but then he stepped it up and after you’ve won it’s good to have battled it out.”
Agassi also came out on top in the vital tie-breaks in his fourth-round victory over rising star Joachim Johansson.
Johansson set a new record with an amazing 51 aces in the match, surpassing the 49 served by Richard Krajicek in the US Open five years ago.
But, like Krajicek against Yevgeny Kafelnikov at Flushing Meadows, Johansson ended up losing the match as Agassi used all his experience to repel the onslaught and record a 6-7 7-6 7-6 6-4 victory.
The 34-year-old lost the first set despite not making a single unforced error, Johansson firing down 14 aces and a total of 28 winners.
Crucially Agassi was serving almost as well, if nowhere near as quickly, the eighth seed managing 16 aces of his own during the match.
In the bottom half of the draw, former champion Thomas Johansson was beaten in straight sets by Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty.
Johansson, the 2002 winner, had been taken to five sets in all three of his previous matches and found there was nothing left in the tank, 20th seed Hrbaty easing to a 7-5 6-3 6-1 victory.
He will play the winner of the day’s final fourth-round match between Belgium’s Olivier Rochus and Marat Safin, Rochus taking the first set 6-4.
Agassi was able to look on the bright side of being on the receiving end of those 51 aces.
“You’ve got to remember, there’s AUS$100 (€59) to inner-city tennis in Australia for every ace,” Agassi joked.
“I’m a team player. That’s all I’m saying.
“I won’t undermine his efforts and say I let a lot of them go by. I’ll just say that all the money is going to a great cause!
“You just have to admire it while you’re out there because there’s just not a whole lot you can do when destiny is in somebody’s hands that extremely.
“There was a good 25 times out there where I felt like I knew where it was going, was leaning that way, and if I jumped and threw my racquet, I probably wouldn’t touch it.
“It’s a phenomenal weapon he has, as well as his forehand. He has a lot to look forward to.”