A ruffled Rafa Nadal fumed after being called for multiple time violations but composed himself to fend off a gallant Kei Nishikori and reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Monday with a tense 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 7-6 (7-3) win.
Nadal's fidgeting, shorts-tugging preparation before serves is a famous quirk of the Spaniard's game but it fell foul of watchful Greek umpire Evanthia Asderaki, and at exactly the wrong moment.
With the third set locked at 4-4 and deuce, the world number one's breach of the 20-second time limit saw him forfeit his first serve and throw away the ball in disgust in a rare loss of composure at Rod Laver Arena.
Nishikori duly won the next two points to capture the break and leave the Spaniard muttering as he trudged back to his chair, throwing a withering look at Asderaki.
Clearly fired up, Nadal struck back the next game to put the match back on serve and punished the profligate Nishikori in the tiebreak to set up a quarter-final against red-hot 22-year-old Grigor Dimitrov.
Nadal later complained that he had been given no warning before being slapped with the second time violation.
"The rules say you can do it, but in my opinion that goes against the show, that goes against the fans," the top seed told reporters after closing out an attritional match in three hours and 16 minutes.
"The rules are there, sometimes I accept the rules, sometimes I am wrong.
"I will try to go quicker for the future but it's important to have people on the chair who understand the game."
The brush with the chair umpire capped an eventful afternoon for the 13-times grand slam champion, who suffered the indignity of being broken four times having not surrendered serve in his previous three matches.
After the second of the breaks arrived in the second set, Nadal took a tumble on the baseline but instinctively rolled to protect the knees that have troubled him throughout his career.
The lace on one of his sneakers did not escape damage, however, forcing Nadal to scurry off the court for five minutes to grab a new a pair from his locker.
Nadal also struggled with a monstrous blister on the palm of his racquet hand, adding to his travails during a fiercely contested match.
BIG FOUR THROUGH
Maria Sharapova was ushered to the exit after a second big shock in as many days in the women's draw.
Victoria Azarenka was left as the only top-three seed still standing in the last eight when Sharapova was scratched from the title race by Dominika Cibulkova, a day after Serena Williams had also tumbled out in the fourth round.
In the men's draw, the "Big Four" look poised to scrap it out for yet another grand slam crown over the next week after Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray all won to join Novak Djokovic in the last eight.
While Nadal will meet Sharapova's boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov for a place in the semifinals, Federer and Murray's quarter-inal date ensures that at least one of the quartet of dominant men's players will go home Wednesday.
Federer's quickfire 6-3 7-5 6-4 victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was the most impressive of the day, particularly given the French 10th seed had taken him to five sets in Melbourne and beaten him at Roland Garros last year.
"I definitely felt momentum was on my side, no doubt," said the Swiss 17-times grand slam champion.
"I started the match well. Did I break first game? I think I did. I felt, alright, things are working for me tonight. Let me try to run away with it."
Murray also looked to be racing to victory against Stephane Robert, the first lucky loser to reach the fourth round in Melbourne, but blew a couple of match points in the third set and was dragged into a tiebreak, which the Frenchman won 8-6.
The Wimbledon champion took out his frustrations on his a racket, changed his shirt and then whipped through the fourth set to record a 6-1 6-2 6-7 (6) 6-2 victory.
"I dominated 95 percent of the match, and for 15 minutes didn't close the match out," said the fourth seed.
"But I still created chances, even when I wasn't playing so well at the end of that third set. So it was pretty good for the most part."
Like Murray, Sharapova missed the back end of last season because of injury and she admitted after her 3-6 6-4 6-1 defeat to Cibulkova that the tournament had probably come a little bit early for her.
"I certainly would have loved to played a little bit more before playing a grand slam, but this is the chance that I was given," said the Russian third seed, the 2008 champion here.
"It's tough. I will be genuine about it. It's never easy (but) it's moments like this that ultimately shape you and make you who you are."