MELBOURNE • Novak Djokovic called his win over Gilles Simon a "match to forget" after he clocked up an embarrassing 100 unforced errors before scraping into his 27th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open yesterday.
The Serb battled for 4hr 32min before prevailing 6-3, 6-7 (1-7), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 and will now face Japan's Kei Nishikori in the last eight.
It was a gruelling win for the 10-time Grand Slam champion, whose tennis was uncharacteristically ragged before he finally subdued the dogged French 14th seed in the Rod Laver Arena thriller.
"Actually, it gives me great joy to know that I can't get worse than that, than what I played today," he said with a smile. "I was obviously pleased to win the match, but in terms of the performance itself, I haven't done well at all.
"Gilles Simon is one of the best counter-punchers on the tour and he likes to play long matches.
DAY 6 RESULTS
Men’s 4th rd:
Novak Djokovic (Srb) bt Gilles Simon (Fra) 6-3 6-7 (1-7) 6-4 4-6 6-3, Kei Nishikori (Jpn) bt Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra) 6-4 6-2 6-4, Tomas Berdych (Cze) bt Roberto Bautista (Esp) 4-6 6-4 6-3 1-6 6-3, Roger Federer (Sui) bt David Goffin (Bel) 6-2 6-1 6-4.
Women’s 4th rd:
Maria Sharapova (Rus) bt Belinda Bencic (Sui) 7-5 7-5, Serena Williams (USA) bt Margarita Gasparyan (Rus) 6-2 6-1, Agnieszka Radwanska (Pol) bt Anna-Lena Friedsam (Ger) 6-7 (6-8) 6-1 7-5, Carla Suarez (Esp) bt Daria Gavrilova (Aus) 0-6 6-3 6-2.
"I knew what to expect on the court. But I honestly didn't expect to make this many unforced errors. It's a match to forget for me."
The statistics make uneasy reading for the proud world No. 1.
An astonishing 100 unforced errors prompted the Serb to say: "I don't think I've had any close number to a hundred. But again there is a first time for everything."
He also blamed a "brain freeze" for continually trying to make drop-shots, which either found the net or were run down by the athletic Simon.
Looking ahead to his match with Nishikori, Djokovic dismissed any concerns about his physical condition after yesterday's marathon.
"I've been in these situations before. The good thing about Grand Slams is that you have a day off in between, which gives you enough time," said the 28-year-old, who had not been stretched to five sets since beating South Africa's Kevin Anderson in the fourth round of Wimbledon last year.
"I've had worse situations where I had much less time to recover. So I'm sure I'll be fine."
It was not the only five-setter yesterday as Tomas Berdych outlasted Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 to go into a quarter-final against Roger Federer.
World No. 3 Federer crushed David Goffin 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in just 88 minutes for his place in the last eight.