Sunday, 24 January 2016

Novak tested - this time to the brink

Novak Djokovic had won the last nine contests against 14th seed Gilles Simon and was expected to perform better than in his struggle against Seppi in the third round.  Simon had been playing well but this was something a few levels apart.

The first game was won by Djokovic to love, a forehand winner and ace the highlights.  Simon saved two break points with unusual unforced errors from Djokovic and games were 1-1.  Djokovic hit assorted winners to remain on serve at 2-1.

The first break of serve came when Simon lost his serve to love in the fourth game, errors his problem. Djokovic handed it straight back with more errors.  3-2 Djokovic but the world number one not looking his best.  

Simon double faulted and was taken to deuce twice, but managed his way to a service hold and 3-3.  In game seven Djokovic made it to 40-30 with a backhand winner but then found himself in heaps of bother.  Two deuces before a double fault gave Simon a break point.  That was saved along with three others, before finally a service winner released the top seed from custody and he led 4-3.

Simon saved a break point but not a second and dropped to 3-5 with Djokovic serving for the first set. In yet another long winded service game Djokovic had set point at 40-30 but didn't convert that.  He then needed to save two break points before converting a fourth set point and led the match 6-3.

Simon began set two with a double fault and at 0-30 was in bother.  He won the next four points however including the final point with a backhand winner. 1-0.  Djokovic was convincing and levelled with winners from all parts of the court.

Errors put Simon in deep trouble at 0-40, but forehand winners helped him to deuce.  His third game point was converted, enabling him to lead 2-1.  Djokovic quickly squared things at 2-2 while Simon went ahead again 3-2 but this required managing another deuce game.

Games continued on serve without a break point until at 4-4 Simon struck problems.  A wayward backhand presented Djokovic with two break points which were lost with two poor backhands from the world number one.  Three more break points were saved and Djokovic was becoming exasperated at his inability to convert a single break chance this set.  Simon closed out the game with an ace and a backhand winner to lead 5-4

Djokovic levelled swiftly and again failed to take advantage of opportunities on the Simon serve.  Two break points vanished and games were 6-5 to Simon.  Djokovic served three aces to ensure a tie break would take place.

The tie break was a shocker for Djokovic with unforced backhand errors giving Simon a 5-0 lead.  Another meant that at 6-1 Simon could serve for the set.  He did so and won the second too, taking the tie break 7-1 and the set 7-6.  One set apiece.

Two aces and Novak won the opening game of set three.  Gilles was broken following a few unforced errors, maybe a letdown after such a high from taking set two.  Novak's love game took him to 3-0.

Simon was on the board after a better service game and then proceeded to break back with Djokovic putting in a shocker.  3-2 to the top seed.

Simon had 40-30 but eventually had to fight off two break points before drawing level at 3-3.  Djokovic went to 4-3, his forehand strong.  Simon sailed through his next serve, the backhand firing three clean winners. 4-4

Djokovic held for 5-4 and a loose forehand from Simon brought a set point to the number one which was converted on a failed backhand from Simon.

Djokovic led 6-3 6-7 6-4 and most thought this would end in four.

Djokovic faced 0-30 and 15-40 due to a flurry of unforced errors in game one of set four.  Saved with forehand winners and the game was his with a winning smash.  Simon levelled without much fuss 1-1
Five deuces in the next Djokovic service game, where each of the three break chances were created from unforced forehand errors from the Serb racquet. They were lost and the game won with a forehand winner. 2-1 Djokovic.

In contrast Simon levelled with a love game.  Djokovic easily extended the lead to 3-2 before a long game on Simon's serve.  Three deuces and a saved break point, and the game won with a forehand volley. 3-3.

4-4 without too much drama, but the ninth game was indeed dramatic.  From 30-0 Djokovic lost the next three points through errors of his own making.  The break point was saved but another one arrived again through poor shot making by the top seed and the serve broken by another unforced error from the backhand.  5-4 Simon and serving for the set.

At 40-30 one set point was saved, and later a second also saved, but Novak could not save a third, which gave the set to Gilles Simon 6-4 and we were going to a fifth set to decide this one.

Djokovic's forehand had been repaired in the break between sets and he used it to help win the opening game of set five.  Simon levelled comfortably, and Djokovic's love game pushed him ahead 

Simon was 40-0 in game four, and then lost four successive points, three from errors.  The break point was converted due to another Simon mistake and Djokovic led 3-1.  Djokovic consolidated quickly for 4-1.

The next game saw another break of the Simon serve, this one much swifter, and the writing appeared to be on the wall, with Djokovic leading 5-1 and serving for the match.

However the top seed stumbled and lost his serve to give a little hope to Simon, who proceeded to save two match points and hold serve for 3-5.

Djokovic was definitive this time when serving for a quarter final berth.  A love game with three clean winners to win a four and half hour slog 6-3 6-7 6-4 4-6 6-3

His quarter final opponent would be seventh seed Kei Nishikori.

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