Error-prone Djokovic survives scare, Serena rocks on

Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:59am EST
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By Nick Mulvenney

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic's grip on the Australian Open title looked shaky for a short spell on Sunday but the world number one finally shook off Gilles Simon in a four-and-a-half hour marathon to take his place in the quarter-finals.

Serena Williams, by contrast, booked a re-match of last year's title decider against Maria Sharapova by sweeping into the quarter-finals without having lost a set, and Roger Federer progressed almost as comfortably to bring the day to a close.

The whiff of an upset hung around Melbourne Park for much of the day -- Tomas Berdych, Agnieszka Radwanska and Carla Suarez Navarro all lost opening sets -- but it was most potent in Djokovic's five-setter against Simon.

Djokovic had eased into the fourth round without losing a set as he continued the dominant form that earned him 11 titles, including three of the four grand slams, last year.

Defensive baseliner Simon is a wily campaigner, however, and he elicited 100 unforced errors out of the reigning champion in his 6-3 6-7(1) 6-4 4-6 6-3 defeat.

Hurtling around the arena on legs that have always looked too spindly to take the kind of punishment they regularly endure, the 31-year-old Frenchman absorbed Djokovic's power and timed his shots to perfection to hurl it back at the Serbian.

Djokovic has not won five titles at Melbourne Park without being able to negotiate a scrap, however, and despite a string of fluffed drop shots he reasserted his authority in the final set to reach the last eight for a 27th successive grand slam.

"I honestly didn't expect to make this many unforced errors. In terms of a level that I've played, it's the match to forget for me," said Djokovic.   Continued...

Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts during his fourth round match against France's Gilles Simon at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jason O'Brien Action Images via Reuters