Despite hitting 100 unforced errors in five-set clash with Gilles Simon, Novak Djokovic survives into Australian Open quarterfinals

  • Novak Djokovic hits 100 unforced errors in five-set victory over Gilles Simon at the Australian Open
  • Djokovic reaches 27th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal — ties Jimmy Connors’ streak
  • ‘No more drop shots!’: Watch video of Djokovic’s playful exchange with a member of the crowd

Despite hitting 100 unforced errors in a five-set contest with Gilles Simon, defending Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic reached the quarterfinals on Sunday.

World no. 1 Djokovic will face Kei Nishikori on Tuesday in what will be his 27th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal, tying Jimmy Connors’ streak. Only Roger Federer, whose record stands at 36, enjoys a better streak.

The story of the day will be a different statistic, however — the 100 unforced errors Djokovic committed as he struggled to a 6–3, 6–7(1), 6–4, 4–6, 6–3 victory in more than four and a half hours on Rod Laver Arena.

That’s considerably more unforced errors in one match than Djokovic made in his first three rounds combined (78). ‘That’s a good number for me, not for him,’ Simon said after the match.

The world no. 1 retained his sense of humour, however, asking a member of the crowd to repeat what they had shouted out during his post-match interview with Jim Courier. When the spectator obliged and yelled ‘No more drop shots!’, Djokovic responded in perfect deadpan fashion, ‘I hate to say it, but you are absolutely right.’

Djokovic had another moment of humour in his post-match press conference, when he responded to Simon’s comments that everybody in the locker room wanted him (Djokovic) to lose by deadpanning, ‘I don’t know which locker room he’s talking about. In the women’s locker room I’m pretty popular, I know that.’

The match certainly will not go down as a classic, nor as one of Djokovic’s best. Despite having won eight matches in a row against the 14th-seeded Simon, whose strengths are lesser versions of Djokovic’s own, the world no. 1 struggled throughout to control his own level of play. After winning the first set, Djokovic had to save 11 break points in the second set before going completely AWOL in the tie break, winning just one point while Simon crested, winning a 32-shot rally with a superb backhand winner. The five-time Australian Open champion broke early in the third set and should have cruised from there, but instead handed back the break and had to work hard to edge a two-sets lead.

Djokovic saved three set points in a grim and decidedly unattractive fourth set before two of those infamous drop-shots saw Simon take the match to a fifth. The world no. 1 put his foot down and looked like he might run away with it as he led 5–1, but the fifth set became slightly less of an anticlimax when Simon broke back one final time and held before Djokovic served it out at the second time of asking.

‘[He] was playing better. He put more on the ball. I think the conditions were getting slower also. He was hitting the ball harder. He took more risk and the balls were staying in,’ Simon said afterwards about the fifth set.

‘From 2–1, 40–0, I think he plays only good shot till 5–1. A lot of lines also. Very aggressive. So not much to say. He definitely played better in the end.’

Djokovic moves on to face the seventh seed Kei Nishikori after the Japanese player beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6–4, 6–2, 6–4 to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open for the third time. Djokovic owns a 5–2 record against Nishikori, including their last four meetings, but has lost to Nishikori at a Grand Slam before — in the semifinals of the US Open in 2014. Despite his 100 unforced errors on Sunday, that’s an eventuality not likely to be repeated when he meets Nishikori on Tuesday.


Originally published at www.live-tennis.com on January 24, 2016.

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