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Djokovic survives scare to reach quarter-finals

Published:Monday | January 25, 2016 | 1:00 AM

Melbourne, Australia (AP): 

Novak Djokovic was looking everywhere for answers, even in the crowd.

The top player in tennis, who won 27 of a possible 28 Grand Slam matches in 2015, had the number 100 in the unforced errors column after his 6-3, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over Gilles Simon at the Australian Open.

The win secured his spot in the quarter-finals for the 27th consecutive major, equalling Jimmy Connors at No. 2 in that streak and trailing only Roger Federer's record of 36.

Yet Djokovic still thought it was a forgettable day. He was dissecting the match in an on-court interview yesterday when a burst of laughter from the crowd caught his attention.

"Sorry, everybody is laughing. I just want to hear, what did you say?" Djokovic said, looking into the stands. The answer came back loud and clear: "No more drop shots".

"OK, thanks buddy," Djokovic deadpanned. "I hate to say, but you are absolutely right.

"I don't think I've had any number close to 100," he said. "In terms of the level that I've played, it's the match to forget for me."

He hit 62 winners and won 100 of the 176 rallies of four shots or fewer, but only 48 of the 101 featuring nine shots or more.

Federer watched Djokovic's match, before going out to beat No. 15 David Goffin 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in a match that finished after midnight, and the error toll didn't bring him any joy.

Djokovic will next play No. 7 Kei Nishikori, who beat No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 with a more conventional style of game.

Federer, a four-time champion in Australia, secured a quarter-final against No. 6 Tomas Berdych, a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 winner over Roberto Bautista Agut.

 

BIG MATCHUP

 

Six-time champion Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova confirmed their quarter-final date with straight-set wins, ensuring a rematch between last year's finalists.

Williams, a 21-time major winner, had a 55-minute, 6-2, 6-1 win over Margarita Gasparyan to set up a big match against Sharapova, a player she has beaten in 18 of their 20 matches.

Fifth-seeded Sharapova had a career-high 21 aces and hit 58 winners in her 7-5, 7-5 win over Belinda Bencic.

Sharapova won consecutive matches against Williams in 2004, but has lost all 17 meetings since. It's a statistic she tries to block from her mind.

"I got myself into the quarter-final of a Grand Slam," the 2008 Australian Open champion said. "There's no reason I shouldn't be looking to improve and to getting my game in a better position than any other previous round. It's only going to be tougher, especially against Serena."