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Djokovic imperfect but still alive

MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic was looking everywhere for answers, even in the crowd.

The world No. 1, who won 27 of a possible 28 matches in Grand Slam matches in 2015, had 100 unforced errors in his 6-3, 6-7 (1-7), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over Gilles Simon at the Australian Open.

The win secured his spot in the quarterfinals for the 27th consecutive major, equaling Jimmy Connors at No. 2 in that streak and trailing only Roger Federer's record of 36.

Yet Djokovic still thought it was a forgettable day. He was dissecting the match in an oncourt interview Sunday when a burst of laughter from the crowd caught his attention.

"Sorry, everybody is laughing. I just want to hear, what did you say?" Djokovic said, looking into the stands. The answer came back loud and clear: "No more drop shots."

"Okay, thanks buddy," Djokovic deadpanned. "I hate to say, but you are absolutely right."

A handful of ill-advised and poorly executed backhand drop shots by Djokovic were the most glaring of his unforced errors.

"I don't think I've had any number close to 100," he said. "In terms of the level that I've played, it's the match to forget for me."

Simon came in 1-9 against Djokovic but thought he'd worked out a way to beat the Serbian star by consistently and desperately keeping the rallies alive.

"I know a lot of players wanted me to win this match," the 31-year-old Frenchman said. "A lot of players will feel better with Novak out of the draw."

Federer saw Djokovic's match before beating No. 15 David Goffin 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in a match that finished after midnight, and the error toll didn't bring him any joy.

"He makes you miss. He makes you go for the lines and he runs down a lot of balls. A lot of points end in errors," Federer said of Simon.

Djokovic next plays No. 7 Kei Nishikori, while Federer, a four-time champion in Australia, faces No. 6 Tomas Berdych, a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 winner over Roberto Bautista Agut.

In the women's draw, six-time champion Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will meet in the quarters.

Williams won 26 matches in a row at the majors last season, capturing the Australian, French and Wimbledon titles and reaching the semifinals at the U.S. Open before a stunning loss to Roberta Vinci ended her run for the season slam.

Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka reached the quarterfinals for the fourth time in five years after a 6-2, 6-4 win over Barbaro Strycova. The 14th-seeded Azarenka will take on No. 7 Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals. Kerber beat Annika Beck in straight sets.

No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska rallied from 5-2 down in the third set to win 6-7 (6-8), 6-1, 7-5 against Anna-Lena Friedsam, who finished the last two games hobbling and in tears and conceded a point penalty on her last serve after taking a medical timeout for what appeared to be cramps. Radwanska plays No. 10 Carla Suarez Navarro, who beat Daria Gavrilova.

Gambling suspicions: A major sports gambling website suspended betting Sunday for a mixed doubles match, raising suspicions of match-fixing at a tournament that started just as a BBC report emerged concerning the topic. Ahead of a match pitting Lara Arruabarrena and David Marrero against Andrea Hlavackova and Lukasz Kubot, large amounts of money poured in on what would normally be an obscure contest, said Marco Blume, head of sportsbook at Pinnacle Sports, one of the world's largest and most influential betting websites. Nearly all of the money, Blume said, came down for Hlavackova and Kubot, who triumphed 6-0, 6-3. The first set lasted only 20 minutes.

Djokovic imperfect but still alive 01/24/16 [Last modified: Sunday, January 24, 2016 11:16pm]
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