Australian qualifier John Millman provided Andy Murray with a scare before the world number three secured a three-set victory at the Brisbane International.
The two-hour encounter was Murray's first appearance of the tournament - the Scot was given a bye in the opening round - and he nervously prevailed 6-1, 5-7, 6-3.
The scoreline in the first set was all but forgotten when Millman broke the Murray serve for the first time in the seventh game of the second.
He won his next service game and then served for the set at 5-4, only for Murray to break back to have the score locked on 5-5.
The raucous crowd crammed into Pat Rafter Arena sensed blood and Millman, a Brisbane native who was awarded an Australian Open wildcard earlier this week, did not disappoint.
The 23-year-old, ranked 199 in the world, rebounded to break Murray to lead 6-5 before capitalising on his fifth set point in the following game when Murray netted a service return.
The third set started positively for Millman, who enjoyed a break point at 1-1, but Murray saved and games continued to go serve on until the sixth.
Millman, starting to show signs of fatigue as Thursday began to creep towards Friday, dropped his service game, allowing Murray to jump out to a 4-2 lead.
The remaining three games went on serve, granting Murray passage through to the quarter-finals.
Murray is a hot favourite to defend his title in Brisbane and despite the US Open and Olympic champion being pushed to three sets, bookmakers would be wise not to change their minds.
The lanky 25-year-old opened his 2012 tilt with consecutive three-set victories only to find his rhythm and reel off three comprehensive wins all in straight sets.
He will now meet Denis Istomin in Friday's quarter-finals, the Uzbek having progressed to the last eight after defeating former world number one Lleyton Hewitt 7-5, 7-5.
The winner will meet either Ukrainian fourth seed Alexandr Dolgopolov or Japan's Kei Nishikori, who is seeded fifth, in the semi-finals.
The other side of the men's draw sees Bulgarian Gregor Dimitrov face Austrian seventh seed Jurgen Melzer and popular Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis take on the third-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon.
Dimitrov sent Canada's second seed Milos Raonic packing with a 6-3, 6-4 win on Thursday, while Melzer accounted for Belgian David Goffin 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).
Serena Williams set up a mouth-watering clash with world number one Victoria Azarenka following a tight quarter-final win.
Williams prevailed 6-4, 6-3 against plucky fellow American Sloane Stephens, the teenager producing an admirable display to underline her enormous potential.
Azarenka now awaits Williams in Friday's semi-final, but the world number three will back her chances against the Australian Open champion, who lost all four of their encounters in 2012.
The 19-year-old Stephens was not overawed to be sharing centre court with her more high-profile compatriot and this was evident in the first set.
Both held their opening two serves with a degree of ease, but Williams showed signs of being the first to crack when she trailed the 38th-ranked Stephens 0-30 in the fifth game.
The experience of the 15-time major singles champion told, however, and she held her serve but only two games later Stephens again put her opponent under pressure when she earned a break point.
Williams recovered and held serve again, although she would have been impressed by the ground strokes of Stephens, who displayed she could hit clean winners off both wings.
The match remained on serve until the 10th game when Williams clinched the first set by finally breaking Stephens, whose scrambling defence beyond the baseline failed to withhold the power of the current
Wimbledon and US Open champion.
Stephens again gave a good account of herself in the second set but she opened the door enough for Williams in the eighth game when she conceded a break point.
Williams did not need an invitation and having worked Stephens relentlessly around the court she broke serve to lead 5-3.
Victory then proved a mere formality for Williams, who served out the match to move through to the last four.
Azarenka progressed very comfortably into the last four earlier on Thursday, beating Ksenia Pervak of Kazakhstan, 6-1, 6-0.
The second semi-final will be contested between Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Ukrainian lucky loser Lesia Tsurenko.
Tsurenko replaced the injured second seed Maria Sharapova in the main draw and she has taken full advantage of the opportunity, having beaten experienced Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova 6-3, 6-4 in the quarter-finals.
Pavlyuchenkova won through to the semi-finals with a 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-3) upset of world number five German Angelique Kerber.Tags: sport, tennis, brisbane-4000 First posted January 03, 2013 21:59:00