Top seed Dominic Thiem was pushed to the limit by qualifier Gastao Elias in his opening match at the Apia International.
At 11.58pm on Wednesday night, the Austrian produced a backhand crosscourt winner to end the two-hour, 39-minute battle.
His 6-7(5) 6-3 7-5 victory sets up a quarterfinal against Brit Dan Evans, a player he’s never before faced.
Thiem was extended by the 81st-ranked qualifier, who played at a level well above his ranking would suggest to take the opening set.
But Thiem says this came as no surprise. “It was an unbelievable match,” he said.
“I played him twice last year, and once was 7-6 in the fifth in Davis Cup and the other time I saved match point. So I knew it was going to be a tough battle. I think it was a good match, unbelievable how he was running and bringing all the balls back.”
When Thiem snared the second set and then broke Elias in the fourth game of the third to push ahead 3-1, it looked as though the match was coming to a predictable conclusion.
But in a twist, Thiem played a forgettable fifth game, broken at love after a double fault.
The players traded breaks as Thiem’s play vacillated between spectacular winners and inexplicable errors. Elias, meanwhile, was rock-solid, retrieving athletically and prolonging points.
Thiem built a 5-3 lead and then found himself serving for the match in the 10th game. He couldn’t get the job done.
But after scoring another service break to lead 6-5, he didn’t falter when serving for the match a second time, converting his second match point to arrive in the quarterfinals.
“I’m pretty happy with my game. I mean there are some errors which I want to avoid in the next matches, but overall I’m pretty happy with the performance,” he said.
“It was a tough opponent for the first round and I had a feeling that I had to do a lot, that I had to play with a lot of power. And it’s normal that at the beginning of the year in the first match of a tournament that there are some mistakes happening.
“I hope they are getting less in the next round.”