Tomas Berdych belied his lowest seeding at a grand slam since 2010 by sweeping into his seventh Australian Open quarter-final with a convincing 6-1 6-4 6-4 victory over Fabio Fognini on Monday.
Showing great mobility, the towering Czech neutralised the potentially tricky world number 25 in a sometimes tetchy two-hour contest on Margaret Court Arena.
The 32-year-old 19th seed converted six-of-11 break points and matched the entertaining Italian’s 37 winners with a much lower error count, securing the victory with a rasping forehand that Fognini himself would have been proud of.
“I’m glad to be back in the shape that I am right now, which is finally healthy and that makes the difference,” said former world number four Berdych, whose lowly ranking resulted from an injury-plagued 2017.
“I can play freely and I can have joy from the tennis. I can enjoy the time being on court. Yeah, the results are coming with that,” he added.
“I was expecting a tough one, and I was ready for it. I had a good game plan, and I was able to execute it all the way through the three sets, so I did it way better today.”
Berdych next meets Roger Federer, who beat him in the third round last year on his way to the title for a place in his third Melbourne Park semi-final.
The players had split their previous four matches but the opening set was all Berdych with the Czech pounding down five aces and 13 winners to wrap it up in just over half an hour.
Fognini was hobbling around at the end of the set and needed some medical treatment on his foot, but suddenly sprang to life at a break down in the second.
Pouncing on Berdych’s second serve, he prowled along the baseline and broke back for 2-2 when the Czech netted after a 24-shot rally, before holding with a brilliant running winner.
Berdych, though, started hitting the mark more frequently with his first serve and broke again before doubling his lead when Fognini went long after 47 minutes.
The 30-year-old Italian had by now started a running dispute with umpire James Keothavong over challenges and a couple of foot fault calls, and quickly went a break down at the start of the third set.
After Fognini roused himself once more to break back for 3-3, there followed a hugely entertaining seventh game that decided the match.
Berdych grabbed a break point when a foot fault contributed to a Fognini double fault but after flinging his racket to the ground in frustration, the Italian saved it with a stunning pass.
There followed a handful of deuces before the disciplined Berdych, who had by now made the conversation about challenges a three-way affair, broke again to take a lead he would not surrender.