Melbourne, Australia, 18 December 2020 | Leigh Rogers

Lleyton Hewitt’s third-round showdown with Marcos Baghdatis at Australian Open 2008 was an unforgettable record breaker.

Finishing at 4.34am, it became the latest completed match in Grand Slam history.

It was 11.47pm before Hewitt and Baghdatis stepped onto Rod Laver Arena, where they then battled over five intense sets.

The day session – where defending champion Roger Federer had been pushed to five sets – had run late. Venus Williams then opened the night session, which did not begin until about 10pm.

“They were tossing up behind the scenes if we were going to even go out there and play at all. They were thinking about postponing it because it was getting so late,” Hewitt recalled.

“Marcos and I still preferred to go out there, especially for the crowd.”

Hewitt posted a 4-6 7-5 7-5 6-7(4) 6-3 victory against the No.15-seeded Cypriot in a match that lasted four hours and 45 minutes.

The No.19-seeded Australian held his nerve after letting a 5-1 lead slip in the fourth set and eventually closed out victory on his fifth match point.

“It was more relief than anything,” Hewitt reflected on how he felt to win.

“I should have been in the locker room 45 minutes earlier, but wasn’t quite able to close it out. When I look back on it, it was probably one of my prouder moments mentally.”

Hewitt’s fighting spirit thrilled the Rod Laver Arena crowd, who mostly stayed throughout the early hours of the morning to cheer for the Australian favourite.

“Once I was out there, the time clock didn’t come into my thoughts at all. It was about trying to get the job done,” Hewitt said.

“When you look back on it now and to see all of the amazing crowd here in Australia who stayed and supported me throughout that challenging match, it was something pretty special.”

Among the crowd was a young Alexei Popyrin. The future Australian Davis Cup representative did not make it through the entire match – but it is still a memory he cherishes.

“We left in the fourth set because it was getting too late for us. I was really young, about seven years old, and my mum was pregnant with my little sister at the time so she was hustling through that. I tried to finish watching the match when I got home, but I fell asleep,” Popyrin recalled.

“I just remember sitting at the top of the stands and taking in the atmosphere. I just really wanted to play on that stage. It gave me a lot of motivation.”

Hewitt’s reward for an memorable victory was a fourth-round showdown with Novak Djokovic.

“Preparation for the next round was tough,” Hewitt said. “I got home at 7am and had to try to get some kind of sleep and normality.”

The No.3-ranked Serbian won their fourth-round match and went on to capture his first Grand Slam title.