Novak Djokovic survived a frustrating five-setter against Gilles Simon at the Australian Open on Sunday, spraying 100 unforced errors on Rod Laver Arena before reaching the quarterfinals for the 27th consecutive Grand Slam.
That’s rarified territory for the five-time and defending champion, equalling Jimmy Connors’ career mark of consecutive quarterfinals — only Roger Federer has done better with his 36.
“These are the tournaments that we value the most and to be able to always come up with the best performance in the Grand Slams, of course I’m very proud of it and hopefully I can keep going,” he said.
Top-ranked Djokovic won 6-3, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in four hours, 32 minutes and will meet No. 7 Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals.
A man in the crowd yelled out during the post-match, on-court interview that Djokovic should give up on the drop shots — some of which were incredibly ill-advised against Simon and contributed to the most startling statistic of the match.
“OK, thanks buddy,” Djokovic responded with a laugh. “I hate to say that but you are absolutely right.”
Centuries are celebrated across the train tracks at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, but not in the unforced errors column at Rod Laver.
“I made a lot of unforced errors today,” Djokovic admitted. “Nevertheless, he was fighting. He was playing well. Physically very demanding. I’m just happy to get through this one.”
Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova confirmed their quarterfinal date with comparatively routine straight-sets wins, ensuring a rematch between last year’s finalists.
Fifth-seeded Sharapova fired a career-high 21 aces and hit 58 winners in her 7-5, 7-5 win over Belinda Bencic, converting her second match point with a successful challenge after her forehand was initially called long.
Six-time champion Williams, who has won 18 of her 20 matches against Sharapova, including the last 17, had a 55-minute, 6-2, 6-1 win over Margarita Gasparyan.
No. 7-seeded Nishikori was the first male player through to the quarterfinals, beating No. 9-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.
Sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych advanced 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 over Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut and will play the winner of the night match between five-time champion Federer and No. 15-seeded David Goffin of Belgium.