‘Match to forget’ as Novak Djokovic wobbles into quarter-finals at Australian Open
Serb clocks up embarrassing 100 unforced errors before prevailing over Gilles Simon in five sets
Novak Djokovic called his win over Gilles Simon a “match to forget” after he clocked up an embarrassing 100 unforced errors before scraping into his 27th consecutive grand slam tennis quarter-final at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Sunday.
The 10-time major champion battled for four hours, 32 minutes before prevailing 6-3, 6-7 (1-7), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 and will now face Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the last eight.
It was a gruelling win for Djokovic, whose tennis was uncharacteristically ragged before he finally subdued the French 14th seed in the Rod Laver Arena thriller.
“Actually, it gives me great joy to know that I can’t get worse than that, than what I played today,” he smiled. “I was obviously pleased to win the match, but in terms of the performance itself, I haven’t done well at all.
“Gilles Simon is one of the best counter-punchers on the tour and he likes to play long matches.
“I knew what to expect on the court. But I honestly didn’t expect to make this many unforced errors. It’s a match to forget for me.”
The statistics make uneasy reading for the proud world No 1.
An astonishing 100 unforced errors, split between his forehand and backhand, prompted the Serb to say: “I don’t think I’ve had any close number to 100. But there is a first time for everything.”
Djokovic also blamed a “brain freeze” for continually trying to make drop shots, which either found the net or were run down by the athletic Simon.
“Sometimes you have a brain freeze, if I can call it that way. That’s what happened to me many times with those drop shots,” he said.
“I’ve been in these situations before. The good thing about grand slams is that you have a day off in between, which gives you enough time,” he said.
“I’ve had worse situations where I had much less time to recover after long matches. So I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
In making the quarter-finals for the 27th straight grand slam, Djokovic equalled Jimmy Connors in second place for the most consecutive last-eight appearances at the majors.
Earlier, Nishikori crushed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 while Tomas Berdych outlasted Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 to go into a quarter-final against Roger Federer.
Federer, in his late match, raced through a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory against David Goffin in just 88 minutes.