Melbourne | Nishikori and Djokovic prove to be the fittest.
To complete the quarter-final line-up, Kei Nishikori and Novak Djokovic had to negotiate their way past tricky opponents who were able to keep them on court for longer than they would have liked.
I don't know how I fought back to battle through. He gave a great match today. Kei Nishikori
First up was the Japanese No1 who has been in scintillating from this past week. He eventually came through a tough five-setter against Pablo Carrena Busta and was followed by the world No.1 who had to contend with the power of Daniil Medvedv to complete the aforementioned line-up.
Nishikori won 6-7(8) 4-6 7-6(4) 6-4 7-6(8) in what proved a thrilling contest which kept the players and the crowd enthralled for five-hours and 5-minutes. The first set took up 76-minutes.
The way he recovered from being two sets down against the Spaniard was remarkable in its own right – not only that but he was also down 8-5 in the fifth-set Super-tiebreak!
Having fallen behind and allowed Carrena Busta to gain a strong advantage, the eighth seed worked his way back into the match by winning the next two sets and had the chance to serve for the match in the fifth set, only for Carreno Busta to break back to force that super tiebreak with the court clock reaching the five-hour mark in a match which was both competitive, relentless and played in a sporting manner.
The only incident to blight the contest was when a line call went against the Spaniard during that final tiebreak and he exchanged strong words with the umpire. That appeared to have rattled him as Nishikori went on to claim the match with an ace.
It was the second time this past week that Nishikori has recovered from two sets down to record a win
“It was a very tough match,” Nishikori said on court. “I don’t know how I fought back to battle through. He gave a great match today.
“It wasn’t easy, but I will try to recover well tomorrow. I just need to recover well,” added the former US Open finalist
“Today was the longest match I have had this week and I just need to recover. I have been playing really good tennis and I’ll try to be fresh for the next match.
“I hope I can have one more good week.”
His hopes may well be dashed as he next faces Novak Djokovic though the Serb wasn’t as convincing as he and his fans would have liked as he dropped his second set in consecutive matches before securing a 6-4 6-7(5) 6-2 6-3 win over Daniil Medvedev.
The six-time champion looked weary and had a fall but despite those setbacks, he retained enough focus to seal his place in the last eight with that four-set win over the young Russian, another NextGen member.
The top seed and title favourite was looking to play better than in his previous round but the in-form Russian played some loose strokes to give Djokovic a key break in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead. The 15th seed continued to work the angles throughout the contest and punished Djokovic’s lack of focus as he gained the break back in the ninth game.
Eventually though the world Np,1 refocused and broke straight back to pocket the first set after 40 minutes and looked set to take complete control.
However Medvedev, the winner of 38 on hard courts last season, immediately responded by breaking and forcing Djokovic into a longer than intended battle when he took the second set on a tie-break, on his third set point after 71-minutes.
The two exchanged a number of long rallies, some well over 30 shots, only for the younger player to start fading faster than his older opponent who comfortably went on to claim his allotted place in the last eight.
It’s the tenth time Djokovic has reached the quarter-finals at Melbourne but admitted it had been tricky. “It was difficult to go through him. I had to find a different way,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. “I was fortunate to save a couple of break points. In this kind of match, you have to hang in there and wait for your opportunities.”
When asked how he was actually feeling, he replied: “Since I guess my next opponent is watching, I’m feeling fantastic, I’ve never felt fresher in my life.
“It was definitely a physical battle, Daniil has been playing some really good tennis in the last six months.”
Then Jim Courier, the on court interviewer, gave him the ‘good news’ that Nishikori awaited him on Wednesday, but he wasn’t as appreciative as expected. “Thanks for the great news, I was hoping you was going to say the other guy won,” Djokovic said.
“But well done Kei, amazing. I think he has won two super tiebreakers here in the tournament so far.
“We have played on this court a couple of times, quarter-finals as well actually, many years ago.”
It could be an interesting match and could depend on who recovers the better.