Novak Djokovic not on top form but finds a way past Gilles Simon in Australia

Novak Djokovic not on top form but finds a way past Gilles Simon in Australia

Novak Djokovic showed a chink of vulnerability but survived as the world number one battled past France’s Gilles Simon in a five-set thriller at the Australian Open.

Djokovic has now lost only once in his last 32 grand slam matches but he was given a scare on Rod Laver Arena, before winning 6-3 6-7 (1/7) 6-4 4-6 6-3.

The Serb was well below his brilliant best, hitting a mammoth 100 unforced errors, but he is safely through and will now meet Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals.

[toimg]NovakDjokovicMiamiMar15_large.jpg[/timg]

The last time Djokovic was taken to a fifth was at Wimbledon last year when he held off Kevin Anderson and he showed his resilience again here to make his 27th consecutive appearance in the last eight of a grand slam.

“Playing against a player like Gilles you can expect a lot of rallies,” Djokovic said.

“He is always making you play an extra shot. I made a lot of unforced errors today but he was fighting, he was playing well, physically it was very demanding and I’m just happy to get through this one.”

As he was finishing his on-court interview, a spectator shouted out “no more dropshots!” after the top seed had netted two drop-shots at crucial moments in the fourth set.

Djokovic halted his interview and asked the fan to repeat his advice before replying over the microphone: “I hate to say it, but you’re absolutely right.”

Two breaks were enough in the first set but the 10-time major champion was already showing signs of sluggishness as he struggled to penetrate with his serve and made 19 unforced errors from the baseline.

Simon, renowned for his speed and guile but not his attacking instincts, was wearing his opponent down and after Djokovic had spurned 11 break points, the Frenchman capitalised, storming into a 5-0 lead in the tie-break before clinching the set.

Djokovic tightened up in the third as he reduced his error count by inviting Simon to attack and the tactic worked as he broke twice to restore his advantage.

Back Simon came again, however, and as Djokovic served to stay in the fourth set at 5-4, the top seed wavered, dabbing two limp drop-shots into the net and then missing a backhand to send the contest to a decider.

So many times Djokovic has looked jaded only to raise his game at the decisive moment, and so it proved again as he raced into a 4-1 lead in the fifth after Simon had chucked away a service game in which he led 40-0.

A wayward forehand from the Frenchman gifted away the second break and a cushion, which Djokovic needed as he was instantly broken back for 5-2.

A tense game followed as Simon saved two match points to hold but Djokovic kept his nerve, serving out with ease to seal victory in four hours and 32 minutes.

More in this Section

Manchester United cruise past Tranmere in FA Cup fourth roundManchester United cruise past Tranmere in FA Cup fourth round

Padráic Joyce's Galway lead from start to finish to edge out MonaghanPadráic Joyce's Galway lead from start to finish to edge out Monaghan

Mayo put on impressive display against DonegalMayo put on impressive display against Donegal

Darren McCurry and returning Mark Bradley inspire Tyrone to victory over MeathDarren McCurry and returning Mark Bradley inspire Tyrone to victory over Meath


Lifestyle

Orlagh Kelly owns The Reading Room bookshop on Main Street in Carrick-on-Shannon in Co Leitrim.We sell books: The Reading Room - ‘Small bookshops, curated by people who care, make a difference’

As Stockton’s Wing release a retrospective album, Mike Hanrahan tells Donal O’Keeffe about getting back on the road, and his love of cookingStill a beautiful affair: Mike Hanrahan talks about getting back on the road with Stockton's Wing

An ongoing cull is resulting in a major reduction in the deer population in one of the country’s most visited natural attractions.Donal Hickey: Deer birth patterns evolving

A Courtmacsherry neighbour, Kathy Gannon tells me that when the tide is out, the vast acres of clean, grey mud of the bay reflect the sun in splendour in the clear, sharp air.Damien Enright: ‘How enchanting for humanity that we have birds’

More From The Irish Examiner