Shingo Kunieda was trailing 5-2 in the first set and for a few moments it seemed as if the wheelchair tennis great was destined for a second straight Paralympic heartbreak.
Then, as if someone flipped a switch, Kunieda was suddenly on again. He ended rallies with stinging forehands and extended others by wheeling himself to balls that may have bounced past a lesser player.
The Japanese ace stormed back from three games down to take the first set and led throughout the second to advance to the Tokyo Paralympic semifinals with a 7-6 (9-7), 6-3 win over France's Stephane Houdet at Ariake Tennis Park on Wednesday.
"I got a lot of confidence from today's game and I want to fight to the end by playing my own way without regrets," he said.
Kunieda may have been down in the first set, but the 24-time Grand Slam singles champion and two-time Paralympic singles gold medalist never counted himself out.
"I have a lot of experience," Kunieda said. "I know what to do and I tried to do it. That was the key."
Houdet broke Kunieda's serve to start the match and used a few well-struck forehand winners, an ace and a couple of errors by his former doubles partner to seize control with an early 5-2 advantage.
He never managed to get to set point.
"He was really good from the beginning," Kunieda said. I was 2-5 down, but I was able to find what I needed to do and (find) a way to win."
Kunieda won the next four games before Houdet was able to recover and force a tiebreak, which Kunieda also won. Kunieda went ahead 3-0 in the second set and held on for the win.
The match took place in vastly different conditions than the players have dealt with during these Games. Instead of scorching temperatures, they played on a cool, cloudy day with a slight breeze blowing throughout and even a few drops of rain.
"The wind didn't bother me," Kunieda said. "It was also easy to play with this temperature."
Kunieda fell at this point during the Rio Paralympics in 2016. The Japanese great had undergone surgery on his right elbow earlier in April of that year and it was still bothering him in Brazil.
Instead of celebrating a third straight gold medal, as many expected, Kunieda was upset by Belgian Joachim Gerard in the quarterfinals.
He ensured there would be no repeat of that at these Games.
"It was a tough injury for me," Kunieda said. "But I was able to find (out) what to do about injuries. Now, my body is perfect, so let's go."
Kunieda will face Great Britain's Gordon Reid in the semifinals. Reid was a 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 winner over Argentina's Gustavo Fernandez.
Reid is the No. 5 seed and relishing his role as the underdog after knocking out the fourth-seeded Fernandez.
"I'm playing the world No. 1 tomorrow, the guy who's probably the favorite (and) he's playing at home," Reid said. "So I'm still the underdog and I'm loving it."
Reid, a resident of Glasgow, was just fine with the conditions on Wednesday.
"I may as well have just trained outside in Scotland and it would've been the same conditions as it has been here," he said. "I was saying it was ironic, we did all the heat training to prepare and I think I've played one match in the heat. The rest of them have either been indoors or when it's cooler.
"That's just the way it is. I'm still probably a little bit fitter (because of) the extra training that I did.
"I'm happy to play. I'd play in snow if it meant I could play."
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