(Reuters) - Roger Federer, staring defeat in the face, was flawless under pressure, saving two match points before beating Tomas Berdych 6-2 3-6 7-6(6) to reach the semi-finals of the Miami Open on Thursday.
The Swiss magician had to call upon all his resources of skill, poise and experience to edge the Czech in a third set tiebreak in front of a frenzied crowd at Crandon Park.
Berdych served for the match at 6-4 in the tiebreak but Federer reeled off four points in a row, including two unplayable serves, and won when the 10th seeded Czech crumbled with an awful second serve that was both long and wide.
"I’ve had some tough losses here where I should have won. They stay with you so I’m happy today to have come through somehow,” Federer said courtside.
"I definitely got very lucky at the end but I think I showed great heart today and I fought. Tomas really stepped it up and it was a great match at the end but one guy had to win.”
Australian Open champion Federer, who also won at Indian Wells two weeks ago, is playing some of the best tennis of his storied career, neither his age nor a knee injury that kept him out for the second half of last year slowing him down.
The 35-year-old is 17-1 this year, his only loss a surprise one against Russian Evgeny Donskoy in Dubai.
Federer has been unbeatable in the clutch, winning all seven tiebreaks during his current American campaign.
“I enjoy winning breakers because those are the ones that are going to make you win a tournament or not sometimes,” he said.
“(My thought process is) don’t mess up, hit a few aces, stay aggressive on the return, all those silly things that never work but they seem to be working now.”
Federer will face either Australian 12th seed Nick Kyrgios or German 16th seed Alexander Zverev for a place in the final.
Federer looked set to cruise to another emphatic victory when he took the first set from Berdych but the Czech proved in no mood to go quietly.
Berdych broke once in the second set to level the match and saved a match point at 5-4 in the third with a rocket second serve of 120 miles per hour (193 kph).
In the tiebreak, Berdych hit a backhand winner into the corner to set up two match points, the first on serve.
But he netted a forehand to squander his first match point, handing Federer serve.
The Swiss saved his second match point with an unplayable first serve and set up his own match point with an ace down the middle.
The pressure reverted to Berdych, and this time he cracked, his second serve landing closer to the baseline than the service line.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; editing by Clare Lovell / Ian Ransom)