One hundred. Yes, that really is the number of unforced errors Novak Djokovic committed in his fourth-round Australian Open victory over Gilles Simon on Sunday. Despite the shockingly erratic performance, Djokovic managed to prevail 6-3, 6-7(1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
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“It gives me great joy to know that I can’t get worse than that, than what I played today,” he said with a smile after scraping past Simon. “It doesn’t concern me for the next one.”
The next one will come during quarterfinal action on Tuesday, when the world No. 1 goes up against Kei Nishikori for the eighth time. The head-to-head series stands at 5-2 in favor of Djokovic, who has won four in a row at the expense of the Japanese sensation. Two showdowns last year both went the way of the Serb; first on the clay courts of Rome and again at the World Tour Finals.
Nishikori punched his ticket to the last 16 by taking out Philipp Kohlschreiber, Austin Krajicek, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Only Garcia-Lopez managed to steal a set. Djokovic, a recent champion in Doha, preceded his struggling against Simon by beating Hyeon Chung, Quentin Halys, and Andreas Seppi in straight sets.
Don’t be surprised if Djokovic raises his level substantially for this one. After all, he is too good and too consistent–especially at this tournament, where he is five-time champion–to turn in a second consecutive sub-par performance. Furthermore, he has dominated his last three sets against Nishikori 6-1, 6-1, and 6-1.
Prediction – Djokovic in straight sets