Mildura VIC, Australia, 10 March 2017 | David Packman

Victorian second seed Dayne Kelly has edged a step closer to retaining his Mildura Grand International crown with an exhilarating win over Alex Bolt to reach the semifinals on Friday.

The 2016 title winner was pushed all the way against the resurgent South Australian – who qualified for his first Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January – coming back from a one-set deficit to win by the tightest of margins, 6-7(2) 7-6(3) 7-6(4), in just under three hours.

“It’s one of my best wins this year, that’s for sure,” Kelly said. “Alex has come back swinging and he’s already beaten me twice, so it’s nice to get a bit of revenge on him.”

Kelly, 26, served for the match in the final set but was unable to finish the job, which eventually led to a deciding tiebreaker being required to separate the two.

“He played a solid game, put on a lot of pressure with his experience,” Kelly said. “I just had to rebound after that and regain my composure. In the end, it was just an exciting match to be a part of and we finished it in good spirits.”

Kelly acknowledged the advantages of his experience in Mildura, a place he has been playing at for the past 13 years.

“It’s always good coming back, especially after last year,” he said. “Seeing all the people behind the scenes. I have a lot of good memories and I really enjoy it.”

Kelly will face third seed Finn Tearney for a place in the final after the Kiwi bundled out Nathan Eshmade in straight sets.

“Hopefully I can just go out there and take care of business,” Kelly said of the upcoming encounter.

Meanwhile, American top seed Evan King continued his dominance – despite his lack of experience on grass – defeating Queenslander Gavin Van Peperzeel 7-6(7) 6-3.

King will play South Australian Bradley Mousley – the No.4 seed – who advanced after the mid-match retirement of Jeremy Beale with the scores virtually locked at 2-6 6-3 3-2.

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