By Ian Ransom
Champion Novak Djokovic did not bother with a practice hit before his showdown with Kei Nishikori and his “less is more” approach paid off with an easy 6-3 6-2 6-4 win on Tuesday to set up a blockbuster Australian Open semi-final with Roger Federer.
The Serb entered the quarter-final against the Japanese in the wake of a five-set marathon with the indefatigable Gilles Simon, a match he was desperate to forget after racking up exactly 100 unforced errors.
Instead of heading to the practice courts to re-tune his game, the world number one put his feet up to clear his mind.
“I didn’t hit a tennis ball,” he said in a courtside interview after mowing down seventh seed Nishikori in just over two hours under the floodlights at Rod Laver Arena.
“And it happens sometimes it’s actually good to rest your mind and rest your body. Less is more sometimes.
“I think it’s more (about hitting) a reset button because I think I’ve played a lot of tennis in the last four or five weeks.”
The Djokovic that faced Nishikori, the winner of their only previous grand slam encounter in the 2014 U.S. Open semi-finals, was not far from the imperious best of the man that clinched three of the four majors last year.
But he landed only 57 per cent of his first serves and was broken twice in the third set as Nishikori finally began to loosen his shoulders and start swinging.
He still ended up trouncing Nishikori though, committing exactly half the unforced errors of his opponent.
Nishikori, who has nursed a wrist injury throughout his tournament, left the court for treatment on a leg problem after being routed in the first two sets.
He returned to the court in more positive mode and edged 3-1 ahead with an array of sweetly-struck winners but was unable to consolidate on two service breaks and threw his racquet onto the court in a rare show of frustration.
Djokovic clinched the decisive break in an epic seventh game and sealed the win with a sizzling cross-court backhand winner.
The Serb enters his 29th grand slam semi-final and sixth at Melbourne Park where he will face 17-time grand slam champion Federer, who he beat for the U.S. Open and Wimbledon titles last year.
The pair’s win-loss record is perfectly weighted at 22-22, though Djokovic won five of their eight meetings last season.
“It keeps going,” Djokovic said of the rivalry.
“My best is what is going to be necessary to win against him. Hopefully I’ll be able to deliver.”