Novak Djokovic will face Roger Federer for a place in the final of the 2016 Australian Open after easing through his last-eight clash with Kei Nishikori. The defending champion, who made 100 unforced errors during an uncharacteristically sloppy performance against Gilles Simon in round four, looked far more assured as he beat the Japanese in straight sets 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
The match got off to a furious start at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, with the first five games lasting a total of just 15 minutes before Nishikori surrendered his serve with a double fault trailing 3-2. The tournament's seventh seed then held to love to stay alive and looked to have engineered a chance to break back as his opponent went 0-30 down on a disappointing backhand, but Djokovic soon recovered and took the opening set when a long ball was unsuccessfully challenged.
With Nishikori committing plenty of mistakes, the world number one hammered home his advantage by gleefully accepting two break points in the first game of the second set. He then fought off stern resistance on his own serve and later broke again as he cruised to a 2-0 lead. The third set was a more tricky affair and neither player was able to hold serve as momentum swung quickly back and forth, but Djokovic eventually held firm to progress through to the 29th grand slam semi-final of his illustrious career and sixth at the Australian Open.
After the win, he said: "That was the goal, to decrease the unforced errors ratio. I've done that. I knew that I'm going to play against an opponent that plays very fast, faster than Simon. That makes also more unforced errors.
"I tried to weather the storm, hang in there. He came up and played first couple games very fast, very quick. Took the ball early, being very aggressive from both corners. I expected that. I was solid. I was determined, focused. In important points and moments I managed to stay composed and make him play an extra shot. Overall it was a very solid performance."
Nishikori, meanwhile, was disappointed that he could not make the five-time winner work harder for his latest success.
When asked if it was the best that he had ever seen Djokovic play, the 26-year-old said: "I don't know. Could be. I think today was more my game. You know, I was missing too much, especially first couple of sets. Lost many easy games. I couldn't make him work hard today. I mean, yes, he plays good. But I couldn't play good tennis today."
Federer lies in wait for Djokovic after seeing off the challenge of Tomas Berdych 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 earlier on 26 January. The duo have met on 44 previous occasions including four grand slam finals and nine semi-finals, with each man having won 22 times each. The last instalment of their captivating rivalry came in the final match of the 2015 ATP Tour Finals in London, where Djokovic prevailed in straight sets to cap a glorious year.