January 24, 2016
Kei Nishikori produced some truly sparkling tennis to defeat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – and in doing so avenge his five-set loss to the Frenchman at Roland Garros last year.
Yesterday’s contest was more straightforward, but only because the hero of Japan was so brilliantly self-assured in what should have been an evenly-matched contest. Instead it ended in an emphatic 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 rout in the younger man’s favour.
The power and skill that Nishikori showed to break Tsonga at key moments early in each set will send out a warning signal to his next opponent in the quarter-finals, Novak Djokovic.
The Serb survived a five-set thriller against Gilles Simon and will need to recover quickly and make far fewer errors if he is to subdue Nishikori, especially with the Asian star in this kind of rampant form.
Nishikori said of his victory: ‘I’m surprised that I broke him early in every set. I was returning well today, and that made it tough for him to have a good serve all the time.’
Uncharacteristically, Djokovic made no fewer than 100 unforced errors and took four hours and thirty-two minutes to edge out Simon 6-3, 6-7 (1-7), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. ‘I’m just happy to get through this one,’ said a relieved Novak.
He’ll still start as favourite to beat Nishikori, having survived a similar scare at Wimbledon last summer against big Kevin Anderson of South Africa.
Meanwhile Roger Federer conserved energy better to see off David Goffin 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. He may just benefit from another spectacular five-setter, one that saw Tomas Berdych defeat Roberto Bautista Agut 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3. The Fed plays the Czech next in what promises to be another humdinger.
We’re certainly reaching the business end of Australian Open now, as evidenced by the imminence of perhaps the highest-profile quarter-final of them all – Serena Williams against Maria Sharapova in the women’s singles.
Hard to see how Sharapova will be able to break her miserable losing run against Williams, which stretches all the way back to 2004. But some will argue that it has to end some time!
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