An ailing Rafa Nadal dug deep into his vast reservoir of grit to stave off American qualifier Tim Smyczek and stagger into the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday on a day of great escapes.
- Aus Open PHOTOS: Federer, Sharapova scrape through
Gushing sweat and stooping woozily between points, the sickly Spaniard dragged his cramping body into a fifth set under the lights of Rod Laver Arena, breaking the 112th-ranked American in the 11th game before closing out a 6-2, 3-6, 6-7(2), 6-3, 7-5 win in four gruelling hours and 12 minutes.
Nadal slumped to his knees on the blue hard court having narrowly averted a repeat of his Melbourne Park jinx.
"It was a very tough night for me (and) ... a tough period of seven months without competition," Nadal, who was out of action for several months during the latter half of the 2014 season through injury and illness, said in a courtside interview.
"Today was a little bit humid conditions and I felt very tired after the first set, through the whole match.
"The fantastic crowd helped a lot so many thanks for that."
For much of the match, there was a hush over the terraces, with many in the crowd no doubt spooked by the memories of Nadal's torture in the final last year when he lost to Stan Wawrinka while carrying a back injury.
Nadal's coach and uncle Toni Nadal revealed his nephew had been bitten below the eye by a mosquito in the run up to the match, adding further intrigue to a day of high drama at Melbourne Park.
Centre court was the backdrop for nerve-shredding tests for some of the coolest heads in the business and with the temperature rising above 32 degrees Celsius (90F), Maria Sharapova showed ice in her veins.
She mounted a brilliant counter-attack to fend off fellow-Russian Alexandra Panova, a 150th-ranked qualifier playing the match of her life.
Down two breaks of serves at 4-1 in the deciding set, Sharapova clawed back to 5-4 and clobbered a string of forehand winners to save two match-points before marching on to a defiant 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 victory.
"When other things aren't working, maybe the mental side of things will help you out," the five-times grand slam champion told reporters.
"Until the very end I still try to dictate, I still try to find my way."
Men's second seed Roger Federer was also forced to scrap in the following match on centre court, after being thrown by a phantom pain on the little finger of his racquet hand during his 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over 48th-ranked Italian Simone Bolelli.
Stunned in the first set by a barrage of clean hitting, the Swiss master growled at a prying television camera as medical staff examined his finger during the change of ends.
However, he gritted his teeth and merely got on with the job, closing out the match with a rush to the net that would have pleased coach and famous serve-volleyer Stefan Edberg.
"It felt like a bee stung me," the 33-year-old said of his troubled finger. "I was like, 'this can't be possible'.
"I'd never had this pain before... Thankfully it wasn't so bad at the end."
Results of Wednesday's men's singles Round 2 matches:
Bernard Tomic (Australia) beat 22-Philipp Kohlschreiber (Germany) 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(6), 7-6(5)
3-Rafael Nadal (Spain) beat Tim Smyczek (US) 6-2, 3-6, 6-7(2), 6-3, 7-5
Samuel Groth (Australia) beat Thanasi Kokkinakis (Australia) 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 6-1
Malek Jaziri (Tunisia) beat Edouard Roger-Vasselin (France) 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3
Dudi Sela (Israel) beat 28-Lukas Rosol (Czech Republic) 7-6(2), 5-7, 7-5, 6-3
Nick Kyrgios (Australia) beat 23-Ivo Karlovic (Croatia) 7-6(4), 6-4, 5-7, 6-4
Andreas Seppi (Italy) beat 29-Jeremy Chardy (France) 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1
10-Grigor Dimitrov (Bulgaria) beat Lukas Lacko (Slovakia) 6-3, 6-7(10), 6-3, 6-3
2-Roger Federer (Switzerland) beat Simone Bolelli (Italy) 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
14-Kevin Anderson (South Africa) beat Ricardas Berankis (Lithuania) 6-2, 6-2, 7-6(3)
6-Andy Murray (Britain) beat Marinko Matosevic (Australia) 6-1, 6-3, 6-2
Joao Sousa (Portugal) beat 32-Martin Klizan (Slovakia) 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4, 1-0 (Klizan retired)
24-Richard Gasquet (France) beat James Duckworth (Australia) 6-2, 6-3, 7-5
Marcos Baghdatis (Cyprus) beat 20-David Goffin (Belgium) 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0
Viktor Troicki (Serbia) beat 26-Leonardo Mayer (Argentina) 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0
7-Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) beat Jurgen Melzer (Austria) 7-6(0), 6-2, 6-2