LLEYTON Hewitt moved a step nearer becoming the oldest player to win the title at Queen's by overcoming the much-fancied Juan Martin Del Potro in a stirring contest on day five of the Aegon Championships.
He could also become the first player to win it five times, having won it four times in the days when the courts were splashed in the red of previous sponsors Stella Artois.
It was the shock of the day and the undoubted highlight of a quarter-finals day that brought wins for Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and 2012 champion Marin Cilic.
Jimmy Connors holds the record as the oldest winner at Queen's, having won his third championship in west London in 1983 at the age of 30. But Hewitt is playing with the assured touch of old and could yet go all the way at the age of 32.
Not that he is hampered by any negative thoughts about his age.
“With the amount of tennis I have missed in the last four or five years [through injury], I probably don't put those years on to my age anyway,” he said. “I just keep telling myself I'm in my 20s.”
Australian sport has been in the doldrums of late, with the cricket team misfiring on the pitch and in trouble off it, but Hewitt offered his countrymen some cheer with a hugely impressive performance.
He broke serve midway through the first set, thanks to two double faults, and broke again to close it out at 6-2.
Third seed Del Potro seemed to have restored the natural order when he broke the Hewitt serve immediately at the start of the second set and stormed into a 4-0 lead before taking the set 6-2.
But if the Argentinian expected the Aussie to melt away after that, he was mistaken, being broken to love to go 3-1 down and Hewitt refused to yield his advantage, completing the set 6-2.
There may have been fire in his belly, as of old, but there was plenty of guile too as he drew on all his experience to drag Del Potro around the court with some punishing ground-strokes.
The home crowd may not have taken to him in a big way down the years, but there was plenty of goodwill on centre court in the overdue sunshine and they enjoyed a nice touch at the end of the match when Hewitt hoisted his son out of the spectator seats and walked him back with him to his chair.
“We are not used to being the underdog,” Hewitt said of Australian sport in general. But he seemed to relish the role today.
“I was a bit scratchy in the first match and haven't really put a foot wrong since. Throughout today I played great. My ball striking was fantastic."
His semi-final opponent tomorrow will be Cilic, who also pulled off a bit of a surprise himself, by ending the run of number two seed Tomas Berdych in the first match of the day.
Berdych had not had his serve broken before today's match and saved two break points at 4-5, but when Cilic conjured up two more in the Czech's next service game, the break finally came to make it 7-5.
Both men served well in the second set, with chances at a premium, but Cilic came good again in the tie-breaker, winning it 7-4.
Murray, twice a winner at Queen's, saw off German Benjamin Becker 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) and will play Tsonga in the other semi-final - the in-form Frenchman having beaten young USA opponent Denis Kudla 6-3, 6-2.
“It will be a big step up and also a really big test for me, because he's been playing some great tennis the last couple of months," said Murray.
"He obviously had a very good run at the French Open, and he's a top grass-court player. He's one of the best in the world on this surface.
"I have had some tough matches with him on the grass before, so tomorrow will be the same."