Defending champion Novak Djokovic wasn’t suppose to lose a set to the aging veteran Lleyton Hewitt but he did. The feisty Australian pushed the World No. 1 but in the end the Serb was too tough taking out Hewitt in front of his home fans 61 36 64 63 to advance to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
Djokovic’s win lifts his Australian Open win streak to 11 and his overall Grand Slam streak to 18.
Of the Fab Four, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have yet to lose a set while Djokovic and Andy Murray have given up just one.
The 30-year-old Hewitt who beat Andy Roddick and then Milos Raonic Saturday acquitted himself well under the constant duress of Djokovic’s versatile game.
Djokovic will now play David Ferrer in the quarterfinals perhaps on Wednesday night.
Afterward, here’s what Djokovic said:
Q. What happened in the third set? You relaxed a bit or it was him?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I played some loose points and got him back into the match. But credit to him as well for being competitive, for not giving up.
This is something you can expect from Lleyton who is very wellknown for his fighting spirit.
I should have closed it out earlier. I should have held my serve in 31, because I was playing well, I was feeling well. Suddenly I stopped. I didn’t move well anymore. He got back into the match.
But look, you know, he had the crowd, he had the big support. It got intense. Especially the start of the fourth set we had some great rallies. You know, it’s good to come out from this match as a winner.
Q. You had some physical problems?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No. Actually, I don’t. It’s just that I wasn’t happy with my movement and my legs were not working. Between that part, 30, third set for me, you know, beginning of the fourth, I wasn’t moving at all. I was pretty passive at the rallies, giving him opportunity to come in.
But, look, you know, you must expect that you experience some lows, as well, you know, not only highs. It’s good that you experience these things, you know, bad games, bad movements at this stage of the tournament, prior to the quarterfinals now.
Q. This was your first big test since the beginning of the tournament. How do you evaluate your form now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think it’s good. You know, I think it’s good. It’s just that small part, maybe 45 minutes, one hour, where I wasn’t playing well and he did.
Look, as I said, it happens. I just have to keep on going. I’m confident that physically it’s not going to affect me too much, even though it’s very late. I’m going to play I think a night match again in two days.
You know, it was the first night match this year. So getting into these conditions. I think all of his matches were night matches.
You know, I’m not looking for excuses, but I’m saying, you know, it’s obviously the first match that I’ve been tested. It was against the player that I expected to be tested. You know, Lleyton was playing in front of his crowd. Obviously he loves competing against, you know, the top guys on the big stage, and he proved it again.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit more about your insights into the top four?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, as I said on the court, I think it’s just the experience that you get playing on the tour that you can use in the certain moments when you feel you are under pressure and just being able to overcome that pressure with that mental strength, you know, your skills and physical ability as well.
In today’s tennis, as any other sport, has improved tremendously in comparing to 15, 20, 30 years ago. Nowadays it’s very physical so you have to work very hard, you have to be dedicated, you have to take care of the smallest details off the court as well, how you organize your life, you have to be emotionally balanced. All these kind of things play a very significant role, you know, in your performance on the court.
Q. Do you think it’s also a matter of personality? For instance, today Ferrer came, he’s No. 5 in the world, there was nobody, no English questions, nobody cares. It’s all on the top four.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You know, that’s something I don’t have an answer to. I guess the people, you know, mostly talk about the top four because the top four have been I think the most dominant in the tennis the last couple of years.
But in my eyes David Ferrer and every player, especially the ones from the top, are great competitors and I have lots of respect towards them. I think sometimes they’re underrated, you know. Especially Ferrer, who has been so consistent, he’s been a topfive player for a long time.
Q. It’s said sometimes it’s easier to climb the mountain than to stay there. A sense of that going into this season?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I’m going to experience lots of, let’s say, expectations and pressure of being a top player this year as long as I’m there. I think I started off well. I think physically, mentally I’m motivated, physically I’m fresh, I’m very wellprepared. I’m playing really good tennis.
Even tonight I played for most of the match a great game. There are some things that obviously I want to work on, I want to get better for the next round. But look, you know, it’s normal to have ups and downs. It’s normal to expect that in most of the matches that I play I will be a favorite, I will be expected to win comfortably.
But, you know, I cannot underestimate any opponent. You know, I have to stay dedicated and stay focused. As long as it’s like that, I think I’m on the right path.
Q. You’ve been at the top for six months or so. How comfortable is the No. 1 skin feeling?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: My approach, as I was saying before, hasn’t changed towards the sport itself and towards my preparations for the big events like this one. I still am surrounded with the same team, same amount of people, same people, and they’re taking care of my oncourt performance, activities, things like that. I feel very comfortable right now working with them.
I have to accept this life as simple as possible, you know, because you can easily get carried away. There is a lot of temptations, especially when you’re at the top. Obviously you get more attention and more temptations to do some things that can affect your performance in a negative way.
Q. Girls included?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I am settled for now. I am settled for now.
Q. You seemed very calm even down a breakpoint in the fourth. Is it confidence that you’re not feeling the fear anymore in these situations?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’ve been working on that obviously. I’ve been working on my emotional stability, trying to not have some really high ups and downs, just try to stay as calm as possible, especially in this situation.
It was a really big challenge for me tonight, you know, to see where I stand. I think I’ve been handling it really well because I could easily get my emotions out as I usually did.
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