MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Kei Nishikori lost to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in just over two hours in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on Tuesday.
The top-seeded Serb, who wound up celebrating Australia Day in style, looked vulnerable early with numerous mistakes and first-serve trouble.
Nishikori, however, also unraveled early and struggled to catch up as he lost to Djokovic for the fifth straight time since beating him in the semifinals of the 2014 U.S. Open. Nishikori had 54 unforced errors to Djokovic’s 27.
“I made a lot of mistakes, particularly, when I was attacking. That is absolutely no good. He’s said to be the top player in the world, but I could have done more,” said Nishikori, who was bidding to become the first Japanese in 84 years to reach the men’s semifinals here.
“Kei’s never afraid to be aggressive, and he was tonight,” Djokovic said. “I knew that I would have to weather the storm and wait for my opportunities. I thought I did well in the important moments.”
Djokovic, who struggled in his fourth-round match against Gilles Simon on Sunday, didn’t hit a ball on Monday, and will now play his 45th career battle against Swiss third seed Roger Federer in the semis. They are 22-22 against each other.
“I’ve played him 44 times and Rafa (Rafael Nadal) 45 times, so it seems half of my career matchups are against those two guys. We seem to play in every big tournament and it’s always a big challenge,” Djokovic said.
Nishikori looked solid at the start, but in the sixth game the world No. 7 fell apart. He went up 40-0 before self destructing, surrendering five straight points by blowing easy winners and breaking his own serve with a double fault.
Djokovic steamrolled in the seventh game to go up 5-2, and Nishikori recovered, but not quickly enough to salvage the set.
Serving to open the second, Nishikori missed three easy winners to give Djokovic an easy break. Nishikori set up his first break point with a cross-court backhand passing shot that left Djokovic talking to himself, but again blew two easy shots to let his top-ranked opponent back into the game.
Djokovic dug in to survive a second break point with a second-serve ace and went up 2-0.
Nishikori made things harder than they needed to be, to hold serve in the third game after three unforced errors saw him fall behind 40-0.
In the fifth game, Nishikori missed two smashes, one long and another onto the top of the net that allowed Djokovic to win a brilliant point and earn a break to go up 4-1. With Djokovic serving for the second set, Nishikori dug in again but couldn’t convert three break points.
Things did not start well in the third set for Nishikori following a medical timeout, but he overcame a pair of double faults to the deuce court and survived a break point to go up 1-0.
With a two-set lead, Djokovic’s errors finally cost him as Nishikori won his first break point of the match. But three straight broken service games followed until Djokovic held serve to go even 3-3 before coming back from 30-0 to break Nishikori and take complete command.
Federer advanced to the semis with a 7-6(7-4), 6-2, 6-4 win over Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.
In the women’s quarterfinals, Serena Williams defeated Maria Sharapova for the 18th straight time — the seventh consecutive time in a Grand Slam.
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