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'Agitated' Djokovic regrets meltdown in floodlight fury as Halep sets up Serena showdown

It’s all go at the Australian Open.

Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open.
Image: AAP/PA Images

TOP SEED NOVAK Djokovic admitted he should have “known better” than to let a floodlight row get to him after copping a code violation during a mini-meltdown at the Australian Open.

The Serb angrily blamed floodlights for dropping a tournament set for the first time as he beat Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 in the third round.

He seethed when leading 3-0 in the third set against the 25th-seeded Canadian when the powerful lights blazed on all around Rod Laver Arena — in broad daylight.

An incandescent Djokovic lost his focus, swore towards a wise-cracking fan and dropped six of the next seven games as the red mist descended under bright sunshine.

“I think there was no sense to turn on lights on court at 5pm when we have another four hours of daylight,” fumed the Serb 17-time Grand Slam winner.

“Completely unnecessary to turn on the lights. The explanation I got was for TV reasons. I hope the viewers enjoyed it,” he added.

The normally mild-mannered Djokovic earned his warning from French umpire Damien Dumusois for snapping at a cheeky fan who shouted “Nervous?”, as he faced three break points at 4-4, 0-40 in the third set.

“I misconducted myself verbally. That’s why I got the code violation,” a sheepish Djokovic told reporters after he had calmed down. 

“It was very bright. There was no reason for the lights. 

“For the first two sets, just had things under control. At 4-1 (up in the third set), I was agitated. 

“As I said, should not happen to me. I know better. I have experience. But it does happen, I guess. I allowed him to come back to the match.

“Other than the little letdown that I had when I was 4-1, 4-2 up in the third set, other than that I thought I played well, especially in the fourth set.” 

Up till his mini-meltdown, Djokovic had made his outing on centre court look like an afternoon practice session for two-and-a-half sets against Shapovalov, one of the NextGen stars tipped to take over from the sport’s old guard.

He skillfully dominated the 19-year-old, who could not find enough winners to throw the 14-time Grand Slam winner off his stride until the dazzling interruption to concentration.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DAY 6 Halep celebrates her win over Venus Williams. Source: AAP/PA Images

Elsewhere, World number one Simona Halep set up a headline last 16 showdown with Serena Williams by beating her sister Venus.

On day six at Melbourne Park, the Romanian finally hit form to pull off her best win of the year and cruise past the veteran American 6-2, 6-3.

“I was super-motivated today,” she said after being taken to three sets in both her opening two matches as she bounces back from a herniated disc that ended her 2018 season early.

“I have nothing to lose,” she added, looking ahead to Monday’s clash against 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena. “I’m playing against a great champion. Its’s going to a bigger challenge but I’m ready to face it.”

 © – AFP 2019 

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