Djokovic downs spirited Hewitt
Melbourne - Defending champion Novak Djokovic dropped his first set of the tournament before dousing never-say-die Lleyton Hewitt in four sets to reach the quarter-finals at the Australian Open on Monday.
Djokovic defeated the two-time Grand Slam champion, 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in almost three hours to set up a quarter-final with Spanish fifth seed David Ferrer on Wednesday.
The Serbian world No 1 was in command for the opening two sets before the fiercely competitive Australian veteran hit back, taking the match into a fourth set.
But top seed Djokovic gradually regained control to serve out with two aces in his final game to clinch victory.
The Serb began brilliantly and broke Hewitt in his first five service games and won 18 of the opening 24 points.
However, feisty Hewitt refused to give in and he began to make Djokovic play more shots, as he fought his way back to the cheers of the capacity home crowd at Rod Laver Arena.
"I have to give credit to Lleyton who never gives up, he's a great competitor and obviously made me play an extra shot and I made a couple of unforced errors," Djokovic said.
"He's very well known for that, in the last 10-15 years he's been playing consistently well on the men's tour and he's a great competitor and I have a lot of respect for him and wish him luck."
"For two sets and 3-0 I was playing really well and then suddenly I stopped moving, and I give a lot of credit for that to Lleyton."
The win extended Djokovic's Australian Open record to 29-5 and it was his fifth win in six encounters with the 181st-ranked Hewitt, playing in his record 16th consecutive home slam on a wild card.
Djokovic dominated last year winning three of the four majors, and up to Monday's fourth-round match had not dropped a set until he was pushed for the first time in the tournament by Hewitt.
Last year's Australian Open triumph over Andy Murray was the first of seven straight tournament wins for Djokovic, in a 41-match winning streak that was finally ended by Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the French Open.
Djokovic leads his quarter-final opponent Ferrer 6-5 with the Spaniard winning two of their last four encounters.