Djokovic Narrowly Avoids Upset In Shanghai

Zverev tests Djokovic in gripping encounter

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic came on Friday within a tie-break of losing to a player ranked outside of the Top 100 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time in more than eight years. The Serbian was forced to work hard for his 30th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 match win of the year by overcoming No. 110-ranked Mischa Zverev 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 in two hours and 21 minutes at the Shanghai Rolex Masters.

"I had to dig myself out of a hole," said Djokovic. "He was the better player for most of the first part of the match. He was up a set and a break, [then] a game away from winning. Tactically played well. He slowed down the pace. I knew his game, but I haven't played him for many, many years... Credit to him, definitely for playing well. He was fighting, he was focused. He gave his best, and he was few points from winning. It was a very close one."

Djokovic will now play No. 15 seed Roberto Bautista Agut in Saturday’s semi-finals at the Qi Zhong Stadium. He leads Bautista Agut 5-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, including victories this year at the Mutua Madrid Open and Roland Garros.

"[Bautista Agut] plays very consistently with the slower pace from the baseline," said Djokovic. "He's also somebody that has tremendous anticipation on the court. I think he reads the game very well. He's a smart player. He's been playing very well throughout the week. I saw a little bit of his match against Jo today. He's very solid. He's not going to give you the win. So I need to obviously earn it."

Zverev played nerve-free tennis en route to a set and 2-0 lead, before Djokovic regrouped to capitalise on his opponent’s errors – particularly at the net and when attacking the German’s sliced backhand. Djokovic last lost to a player outside the Top 100 at 2008 Miami, when he fell to then World No. 122 Kevin Anderson 7-6(1), 3-6, 6-4 in his opening match.

Zverev had been bidding to record his first Top 10 win since beating then-World No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko in the 2010 Shanghai second round. He will return to the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday for the first time since 6 June 2011.

Djokovic has compiled a 59-6 match record on the season, which includes seven titles from nine finals. The Serbian has 10,600 points in the Emirates ATP Race To London and is bidding to seal the year-end No. 1 crown for the third straight year and fifth time overall (also 2011-12).