Bautista Agut Knocks Off Djokovic In Shanghai
Spaniard reaches first Masters 1000 final
Roberto Bautista Agut outplayed Novak Djokovic on one of tennis' biggest stages on Saturday, prevailing against the World No. 1 6-4, 6-4 during their semi-final encounter at the Shanghai Rolex Masters. Now the Spaniard will go for the biggest title of his career – a first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown.
“I can't describe how I feel. I'm so happy. I played really good tennis this week, and I hope to play the same tennis tomorrow in the final," Bautista Agut said.
The 28 year old controlled play with his booming, flat forehand and refused to back down against Djokovic, who was trying to reach his 10th final of the season. Heading into Saturday's ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final, Bautista Agut had been 0-5 against Djokovic and 0-5 against players ranked No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. But the 15th seed, playing in just his second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final (Madrid 2014), was ready for the occasion.
Bautista Agut bludgeoned forehand after forehand, often running around his formidable backhand to strike the ball inside-out. More importantly, he matched Djokovic shot for shot as the defending champion struggled to gain momentum.
Serving at 3-all, Bautista Agut fell behind 0/30 but pushed the game to deuce and eventually held for a 4-3 lead. At 4-all, Djokovic had two opportunities to break but Bautista Agut erased them both with forehand winners. The Spaniard would go on to save seven of nine break points in the match.
Djokovic tried to limit the damage Bautista Agut could yield with his forehand, often attempting to pin the Spaniard in his backhand corner. But Bautista Agut still found ways to be effective, especially during the match's biggest moments.
“He was a better player, no question about it,” Djokovic said. “In important moments, he was more consistent. He was more solid.”
With Djokovic serving at 4-5, Bautista Agut stepped into the court and grabbed the set from the Serbian, ending the point with three consecutive forehands.
“I tried to force him to play his best tennis. I think in the first set he played some good tennis. He played a little bit better than me,” Bautista Agut said. “But then I knew that I had to increase my level. I had to play more aggressive... And then at 5-4, I started to play more aggressive and I started to play better tennis."
Djokovic bounced back in the second set, though, and when he broke to get back on serve at 3-4, it looked as if his Shanghai fans would have another set and a half of excitement. But Bautista Agut wasn't going anywhere.
"After the passing shot in the last point, I was so happy... I couldn't imagine me closing the match against Novak," Bautista Agut said. “It's not easy to play Novak when he's playing really good. I'm so happy I could beat him. The first time I remember I played him I thought he was from another planet, and now I think I'm closer to him.”