There seems only one way to beat Andy Roddick here, and that is deep in the fifth set. But the notion that there is also only one man who could beat him was dismissed in breathtaking fashion last night, when the son of a Taiwanese chicken farmer knocked out the No 5 seed as the afternoon heat finally ebbed into dusk.
Roddick, who contested that epic, 30-game final set against Roger Federer in last year's final, here managed to lose 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-7, 9-7 to Yen-Hsun Lu. The world No 82 had only previously impressed himself on general attention by beating Andy Murray at the Olympics, and broke Roddick's serve only once in four hours and 36 minutes. When finally doing so, however, he also broke his heart.
A triple finalist here, Roddick looked shattered that his craving for the title was over for another year, and so abruptly. His eyes in the press conference were hollow and black. "He deserved the win more than I did, that's for sure," he said. "It wasn't my serve. I didn't get broken in five sets. It was my returning. That was crap. I thought he did a good job controlling the middle of the court all day, his ball was coming in with a lot more behind it than mine. Through three sets, I was playing horrendously. I actually think the fifth was the best I played, as far as making him struggle, but when you dig yourself a hole it's tough to get out, when you've given someone confidence."
Lu, 26, dedicated his win to his late father. "Today I tried not to over-play," he said. "I just tried to stay with him until I could shake his hand. I knew in the fifth set there's no tie-break, and he has the better serve. So the longer I can stay, maybe something happens. The fifth set I didn't believe I could win, but even though I don't believe, I have to fight."
Lu, who entertained his press conference with an offer to demonstrate his ability to catch a chicken, will now meet Novak Djokovic. The No 3 seed himself departed from an anticipated script after allowing no less persistent an opponent than Lleyton Hewitt back into a match he seemed to have under control. Having won the first two sets, he requested a medical time-out, subsequently revealing that he felt sick. Hewitt promptly pounced, breaking serve and closing out the set as Djokovic appeared consumed by lethargy.
But Djokovic, whose history of high-profile retirements has often been treated as a pretext to doubt his own resilience, raised his game to win 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. He celebrated his victory by ripping open his shirt, tearing it off and hurling it into the crowd.
It was edifying to see him defy the cynics, though it must be said that Hewitt seemed less than wholly convinced. "He's always got something," the Australian said afterwards. "So I wasn't focusing on it at all. I was just trying to play my game. He looked fine again in the fourth."
"Everybody has an opinion," Djokovic shrugged. "I don't know why people think I'm always having something, which is absolutely wrong because I haven't asked for medical or physio time-out for a long time. I don't really care. You know, whatever."
Rafael Nadal looked back in the groove with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 defeat of Paul-Henri Mathieu, while the No 6 and No 9 seeds slugged it out for three hours on Court 12 before Robin Soderling saw off David Ferrer 6-2, 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.