When you’ve spent 13 hours and 47 minutes on court in Melbourne this year, longer than any other player, and when you’ve come through three five-set marathons in four matches so far, the last man you want to go up against is Novak Djokovic. Life for Kei Nishikori at the Australian Open just isn’t easy.
Djokovic joked in his on-court interview on Monday that upon being told Nishikori had won through another five-set battle – and was to be his next opponent – that ‘he wanted the other guy to win’. No disrespect to Pablo Carreno Busta was intended and indeed Djokovic has no reason to fear facing the Japanese, a player he holds a magnificent head-to-head record (15-2) against.
Their meeting today sees them face each other at a third consecutive slam. Djokovic won last year in the quarter-final at Wimbledon 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 and the US Open semi-final 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 on his way to lifting both titles.
Nishikori has won just one of their five major duels in the 2014 US Open semi-final when the 29-year-old lost his maiden grand slam final to Marin Cilic.
Despite battling fatigue, Nishikori’s confidence levels are high after an unbeaten start to the season including a first trophy of the year at the Brisbane International.
After missing last year’s opening grand slam as he recovered from elbow surgery, Nishikori would like nothing more than defeating Djokovic and book a last four spot at a major for only a third time in his career.
“He (Djokovic) has different strengths from Federer or Nadal, his game is rock solid and I still can’t find a way to break that,” he said before the championships started.
“Nevertheless, I always look forward to playing him. I feel like he also feels uncomfortable to play me.”
Awaiting Djokovic or Nishikori in the semi-finals will be either Milos Raonic or Lucas Pouille.
The Frenchman won the first two sets but dropped the third. The pair are currently locked in a fourth-set battle on Rod Laver.
*Game-by-game coverage of Djokovic vs Nishikori will commence from 8.30am