It was anything but a Serene Sunday in fourth round play on the men’s side at the Australian Open. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was pushed to five sets in an eventual victory, as was No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych, who set up a meeting with Roger Federer.
The top-seeded Djokovic struggled with his game but eventually outlasted the French hitting wall and No. 14 seed Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-7(1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
“In terms of the performance itself, I haven’t done well at all,” said the Serb, who committed an astounding 100 unforced errors over five sets. “[You] can expect unforced errors when you’re playing Gilles Simon, who is one of the best counter-punchers on the tour at the moment and he’s been around for many years…In terms of a level that I’ve played, it’s [a] match to forget for me.”
Simon said that while his game plan worked to almost-perfection, the end result came up painfully short. Djokovic broke in the fourth and sixth games of the final set to close it out.
“I know exactly what I was doing, but I won’t say it. I had a plan,” the Frenchman said. “I know him well. We all know which player he is and how hard it is to find any solution against him, to somehow stop the fight and feel better on the court. I think I worked on it good today. He made 100 unforced. That’s a good number for me, not for him. But fortunately one more time was not enough.”
Next up for the world No. 1 is No. 7 seed Kei Nishikori, who handled No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in surprisingly easy fashion 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.
“Today was I think one of the best match I had this week,” Nishikori said. “Played good tennis through three sets, all three sets.”
Nishikori says he will look to turn his fortunes around against Djokovic, perhaps watching the Simon replay.
“We played in London and [Djokovic] kind of destroy me,” said Nishikori, who stopped the Serb at the 2014 US Open. “It wasn’t easy match for me. It’s different condition, but I hope I can make some changes and try to play better. Yeah. I’m ready to beat him again.”
In the last match of the day finishing after midnight local time, No. 3 seed Roger Federer was in top form, disposing of No. 15 seed David Goffin 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.
“It’s always tough to play on a court you’ve never played, like Rod Laver Arena,” Goffin said afterwards. “It was tough to feel my timing on my baseline. He was playing really good from the beginning.”
The Swiss for his part was happy to get off the court quickly.
“Surprised it went as fast as it did,” Federer said. “To win the first two sets within 50 minutes is the best thing that can happen out there, especially with a late start and against a quality player. So I was very happy.”
Federer will hope to have a physical advantage in his quarterfinal against No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych, who needed five sets to put down No. 24 Roberto Bautista Agut 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3.
“I was playing well tactically with the right game plan,” Berdych said. “It was a good challenge for me. [He has a] very difficult game style. You have to really work your game around it, play some good ball to be able to win.”
Federer won all three of his meetings with Berdych in 2015.
“I think [Federer is] playing really well, especially in the last season,” said Berdych, who last beat Federer in 2013. “He’s become a very, very danger opponent, as always he is. I mean, it’s always difficult to say something else or something new. It’s Roger, so it’s always going to be a huge challenge to play him. It’s the quarterfinal of a slam. Yeah, I like it. I like my chances.”
Monday fourth round matches in Melbourne will be (4) Stan Wawrinka vs. (13) Milos Raonic, (2) Andy Murray vs. (16) Bernard “The Tank Engine” Tomic, (23) Gael “Force” Monfils vs. Andrey Kuznetsov, and (8) David Ferrer vs. (10) John Isner.
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