Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Now that's more like it -- Djokovic rolls into semis

Novak Djokovic, serving at Indian Wells last year, dominated Kei Nishikori in
the Australian Open after struggling against Gilles Simon.  Photo by Paul Bauman
   Relax, Novak Djokovic fans.
   Both of you.
   The top seed and defending champion's game appears to be back on track in the Australian Open.
   After committing 100 unforced errors in his five-set victory over No. 14 seed Gilles Simon of France in the fourth round in Melbourne, Djokovic dominated Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 today in the quarterfinals.
   Djokovic made 27 errors against Nishikori, who played was treated for a groin injury in the second set.
   "That was the goal, to decrease the unforced errors," Djokovic, who skipped practice to rest the day after his win over Simon, said on ausopen.com. "I've done that. ...
   "I was solid. I was determined, focused. In important points and moments, I managed to stay composed and make him play an extra shot. Overall, it was a very solid performance."
   Djokovic improved to 6-2 against Nishikori, whose last victory in the series came in the 2014 U.S. Open semifinals. The 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) Nishikori then lost to 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Marin Cilic of Croatia.
   Djokovic seeks his sixth Australian Open singles title, which would tie him with Aussie Roy Emerson for the record. Djokovic came within one match, a loss to Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final, of becoming the first man to win a calendar-year Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969.
   But Djokovic does not get the respect he deserves -- hello, Sports Illustrated, which chose Serena Williams as its 2015 Sportsperson of the Year -- partly because he comes from a small European country.
   So does Roger Federer, who will renew his rivalry with Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinals. But at least Americans associate Switzerland with watches, chocolate, army knives, banking, mountains, skiing and neutrality. They know nothing about Serbia except possibly that it was involved in a 1990s war.
Serena Williams, practicing during the 2014 Bank
of the West Classic at Stanford, extended her win-
ning streak over Maria Sharapova to 18 matches
in the Australian Open. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Also, the 34-year-old Federer has captured a record 17 Grand Slam singles titles. Djokovic, 28, has won "only" 10.
   Federer, the No. 3 seed, is trying to claim his fifth Australian Open singles crown but first since 2010. He defeated No. 6 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4.
   Federer and Djokovic are tied 22-22 in the head-to-head series, but Djokovic has won the last three Grand Slam meetings, including two last year.
   Meanwhile, No. 1 seed Williams extended her winning streak over No. 5 Maria Sharapova to 18 matches with a 6-4, 6-1 quarterfinal decision.
   Williams, the defending and six-time Australian Open champion, will meet No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in the semifinals. Radwanska dismissed No. 10 Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-1, 6-3 to reach her second Australian Open semifinal.
   Radwanska, 26, has won one set in eight career matches against Williams, 34.
   Both players have had success in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. Williams won the title in 2011, 2012 and 2014, and Radwanska was the runner-up to Dominika Cibulkova in 2013.
   In the men's doubles quarterfinals in Melbourne, unseeded Adrian Mannarino and Lucas Pouille of France stunned top seeds and reigning Wimbledon champions Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Horia Tecau of Romania 7-6 (5), 6-7 (2), 6-4.
  The highest remaining men's doubles seeds are No. 7 Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil. Murray is the older brother of Andy Murray, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion who's seeded second in Melbourne.
   Both Murrays won titles in the 2007 SAP Open in San Jose. Andy captured his second straight singles crown in the tournament, which was discontinued after the 125th edition in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2013, and Jamie took the doubles crown with American Eric Butorac.

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