Preview: Djokovic Hoping To Stop Bautista Agut's Streak
Novak Djokovic has bulldozed through Grand Slam draws in the past. As a 20-year-old, he dropped only one set en route to his first Grand Slam title at the 2008 Australian Open. The Serbian matched the feat in Melbourne three years later, in 2011.
This Wimbledon fortnight, the World No. 1 remains on pace to equal those runs, having lost only one set so far, in the third round against Poland's Hubert Hurkacz. But the Serbian's 2019 Tour de SW19 has had an additional aura of invincibility surrounding it, the feeling that no matter what his opponents do, Djokovic has the answer.
The four-time champion reached his ninth Wimbledon semi-final on Wednesday, losing only six games against Belgian David Goffin 6-4, 6-0, 6-2. It's the fewest number of games Djokovic has ever lost in a Grand Slam quarter-final. His previous best was a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win against Yen-Hsun Lu at the 2010 Wimbledon.
“I've been playing [my] best tennis in this tournament in the last two rounds, fourth round and [quarter-final]. Especially... second set and third set against Goffin, who was in form, I felt like I managed to dismantle his game and find always the right shots,” Djokovic said.
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The Serbian won 50 per cent of his second-serve return points and converted seven of 10 break chances. Goffin, meanwhile, broke only once out of six opportunities. Djokovic has broken a tournament leading 29 times (29/63, 46%). “The ball all of a sudden looks and seems larger than it actually is. It's a good feeling, I must say,” he said, smiling.
But if the Serbian has had a kryptonite in 2019, a year in which he's gone 33-6, it might be Roberto Bautista Agut, his semi-final opponent. The Spaniard has beaten Djokovic both times they've played this year and three of the past five, although Djokovic still leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 7-3.
During the Doha semi-final and Miami fourth round, Bautista Agut pulled a Djokovic and wore down the Serbian, who led by a set and a break in both contests but was undone by the Spaniard's ability to withstand blow after blow after blow.
“[Djokovic] is very solid from the baseline. He likes to play a lot of rallies. Well, I like to play against opponent like this, to play a match with a lot of rallies. Against Novak, that's what we do,” Bautista Agut said.
Asked for the toughest thing about the Spaniard's game, Djokovic said, “His ability to stay in the point even when it seems like he's on the back foot. He's got amazing consistency with his shots, very flat from both forehand and backhand.”
Although the two have never played on grass – Bautista Agut's trio of wins have come on hard court – Djokovic said the surface fits Bautista Agut's game. The Spaniard is through to his first Grand Slam semi-final.
“The ball bounces lower on the grass, which is I think more suitable to his style of the game. He doesn't like when the ball bounces higher to his backhand,” Djokovic said. “He's been definitely playing some very, very high-quality tennis in this tournament. He has won twice against me so far this year. That's certainly going to give him confidence coming into the match.
“Obviously playing on grass, it's different. Semi-finals of Grand Slam, [I'm] going to try to use my experience in being in these kinds of matches, get myself tactically prepared.”
Bautista Agut has also lost only one set so far, in his quarter-final against Argentina's Guido Pella. The 31-year-old Spaniard's biggest win came against 10th seed Karen Khachanov of Russia to make the fourth round, his prior best Wimbledon showing (2015, 2017).
The Spaniard planned on being elsewhere this weekend. He had arranged for six of his friends and him to travel to Ibiza for his bachelor party. (He plans to get married in November). But Bautista Agut isn't bemoaning the last-minute travel change. “It feels better to be here in London,” he said.