Roger Federer reached his 33rd consecutive grand slam quarter-final despite suffering an injury scare on his way to a tough win over Xavier Malisse at Wimbledon.
Federer looked far from his best amid cold and blustery conditions on Centre Court, but he still managed to record a 7-6 (7/1) 6-1 4-6 6-3 success against the world number 75 that sets him up for a last-eight clash against Mikhail Youzhny or Denis Istomin.
Part of the reason behind Federer’s laboured victory was a back injury for which he needed off-court treatment after the eighth game of the first set.
Federer looked determined to get back to the warmth of the locker room early on.
The Swiss handed his opponent two break points but Malisse wasted them by netting a forehand and returning wide.
The problems did not stop there for Federer as he offered Malisse another chance to break in the fifth game but an ace rescued the six-time champion.
Federer then took a medical time-out to receive treatment on the injury, leaving the court, and he moved gingerly upon his return.
Malisse seized the initiative, breaking Federer to move 6-5 ahead, but the Swiss struck back immediately by returning a bullet forehand just over the net to draw level.
Luckily for Federer, Malisse’s game imploded in the tie-break as he made three unforced errors to hand the third seed the set before the rain came.
Comical scenes followed as the players emerged from the locker room but they were ordered back when it started raining again.
Following an inspection the players returned 35 minutes after the tussle was first suspended, and despite light drizzle, the roof remained open.
Federer was still not moving perfectly, but he adapted his game to allow him to take a grip on the match.
The Swiss avoided getting involved in baseline rallies and instead opted for softer drop shots to prevent him from putting his injured back to the test.
The tactic worked as Federer engineered a break point in the third game and Malisse completely mis-timed a forehand to send the ball flying into the stands about seven yards from the Royal Box.
Federer broke again and survived two Malisse break chances to wrap up the second set in quick fashion.
Federer wanted to wrap the match up in three sets, but the Swiss, and a shivering crowd on Centre Court, were stunned as Malisse fought back, breaking with a forehand in the opening game.
Malisse had two more chances to break in the fifth but he wasted them. It did not matter, however, as the Belgian was already a break up and he served out for the set.
A superb backhand from Malisse gave him an immediate break in the fourth set but Federer levelled the match when his opponent spooned a forehand wide at 40-30 behind in the fourth.
Federer, who now seemed to be moving better than before, broke again in the sixth game when Malisse netted and the crowd favourite clinched victory with a powerful ace three games later.