Saturday 25 March 2017

Novak Djokovic records facile victory over Kei Nishikori to set up Roger Federer showdown

Novak Djokovic celebrates after defeating Kei Nishikori in their quarter-final match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne
Novak Djokovic celebrates after defeating Kei Nishikori in their quarter-final match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne

Tom Allnutt

Novak Djokovic rediscovered his groove to ease past Japan's Kei Nishikori and set up an Australian Open semi-final with Roger Federer.

Djokovic made a career-high 100 unforced errors during a torrid performance in the previous round but it was back to business as usual for the world number one, who beat Nishikori 6-3 6-2 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena.

The victory ensures Djokovic and Federer will meet for the 45th time in their careers, with the current head-to-head firmly in the balance at 22 wins each.

Djokovic came into the match with question marks about his form after a scrappy fourth round performance against Gilles Simon, in which he came through in five sets.

The top seed reduced his error count down to 27 on Tuesday compared to Nishikori's 54 and after the match the Serbian revealed he cancelled practice on Monday in a bid to refresh.

"I haven't practised yesterday, I didn't hit a tennis ball," Djokovic said. "Sometimes it's good to reset your mind and rest your body. Less is more sometimes."

Nishikori is yet to prove his mettle in the latter stages of major tournaments and he came up short again, producing a disappointing display that lacked either control or consistency.

The world number seven beat Djokovic in the US Open semi-finals in 2014 but he never looked like repeating the feat here, losing his serve six times overall in a brisk match lasting two hours and seven minutes.

"We've played more than a few times in the last couple of years and I lost to him at the US Open in 2014," Djokovic said.

"He's not afraid to come out and play aggressive tennis which he did, I just needed to weather the storm, hang in there and wait for my opportunity.

"I did well in the important moments."

Federer expended only slightly more energy earlier on Tuesday by beating Tomas Berdych in straight sets and Djokovic will know he needs to up his game again if he is to deny the Swiss a shot at an 18th major title.

"We keep playing each other in nearly every big tournament," Djokovic said.

"It's always a big challenge. You don't need to spend words on his achievements - he is a great champion and someone I have a lot of respect for. It will be a great match."

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