Andy Murray earned a tortured 6-3 3-6 7-6 victory over Fernando Verdasco to reach the quarter-finals of the Dubai Championships on Wednesday.
Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic was also stretched before the third seeded Serbian beat Fabrice Santoro of France 6-3 7-6, but Rafael Nadal coasted to a 6-4 6-0 win over Russian qualifier Mikhail Ledovskikh.
Anyone expecting Murray to sail past the Spanish left-hander after he had earlier beaten Roger Federer was disappointed.
The Briton had to battle both the wind and an adventurous opponent for almost two and a half hours before securing victory on his fourth match point.
Federer had accused Murray of often waiting for his opponent to make errors rather than going for winners and the Scot was guilty of that for most of the match. Verdasco was by far the more aggressive player but he lacked consistency on his powerful forehand.
"It wasn't the best match I've played but it was pretty rough conditions out there," Murray told reporters. "It was really windy and I didn't hit the ball cleanly at all.
"I think it's the first leftie I've played all year and it takes a little while to get used to their spins and the way the serve's moving. So I definitely struggled today but I'm really happy with the way that I fought to win a match like that."
Murray looked flat at the start and it was only when he faced a break point at 2-2 that he jerked into life and began to compete more aggressively. He then broke for 4-2 when his opponent double-faulted and, after holding off two more break points in the next game, went on to take the set.
A break for 2-0 and two break points saved in the next game gave Verdasco a 3-0 lead in the second set and, although Murray recovered the break in the seventh game, Verdasco broke once more for 5-3.
In the final set, Murray held off two break points at 1-1, broke for 4-2 but then netted a forehand to concede his serve in the next game.
Verdasco held a break point at 5-5 but netted a volley, before Murray controlled the tiebreak, building a 6-2 lead before closing
out the match by winning a protracted rally.
"It was a pretty ugly point, actually," said Murray of the final point.
"I was just making sure I kept the ball in play, because I think he's the sort of guy, if you can make a lot of balls against him, keep him in the back of the court, he can get a bit impatient and luckily he missed one at the end."
Murray will now face fifth-seeded Russian Nikolay Davydenko.
They have played five times before, with Murray winning the last three, including a semi-final earlier this year on the way to his Doha title.
Djokovic was aggressive and looked comfortable against Santoro in the first set, but then lost his way.
Santoro broke and held a point to lead 4-1 before Djokovic broke back with a finely executed crosscourt backhand, and the Serb also had to survive two break points when down 4-3.
"I think I started losing my hair in the second set, from the tightness and nervousness," said Djokovic.
"In the second set it could go either way. I started playing less aggressive and making some unforced errors, but in the end I'm happy to get through."
Spain's Nadal, seeded second, now plays sixth seeded American Andy Roddick, who eased by Paul-Henri Mathieu of France 6-3 6-4. (Reuters)
Murray struggles into Dubai quarter-finals