Djokovic weathers Bautista Agut storm to reach the Wimbledon final
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic weathered a mid-match dip in form against Roberto Bautista Agut on Friday afternoon to book his place in a sixth final at The Championships, Wimbledon.
The four-time champion ended the run of Spanish No. 23 seed Bautista Agut 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Centre Court over two hours and 48 minutes for a place in his 25th Grand Slam championship title match (15-9 lifetime).
Djokovic, who had lost to Bautista Agut in three of their previous five meetings — including at the Qatar Open and at the Miami Open this season — sailed through the first set with two service breaks, hitting 12 winners to seize the momentum.
But Bautista Agut settled in the second set, before Djokovic regrouped midway through the third set and, as the pressure on his opponent increased, he broke decisively in the third game of the fourth set en route to his 71st victory in 81 matches at Wimbledon.
Bautista Agut won the first point of the match with a forehand, but Djokovic immediately took control, content on rallying with the Spaniard from the baseline.
Through two games, Bautista Agut had committed four forehand errors in his first Grand Slam championship semi-final and Djokovic turned the screw en route to a 3-0 advantage.
Bautista Agut settled after winning his first service game in the fourth game, but Djokovic’s relentless intensity meant he won few easy points.
Djokovic completed the 37-minute first set with a backhand return, which saw Bautista Agut overhit a forehand in response. Djokovic won 93 per cent of his first-service points and committed just five unforced errors in the opening passage of play.
With his first love service hold, Bautista Agut relaxed and he broke Djokovic to 15 for a 2-1 lead after a powerful forehand winner. Errors began to creep into Djokovic’s game, but shortly prior to the start of the fifth game, a spectator was taken ill courtside and play was suspended for a few minutes.
Upon the resumption of play, Djokovic recovered from 15/40 with four straight points for 2-3, but Bautista Agut remained aggressive and was comfortable in attacking the net to finish points.
The 31-year-old seized upon Djokovic’s dip in form, losing just four of 24 service points in the second set that lasted 45 minutes and ended with a forehand net cord winner.
Djokovic changed up his tactics in the third set, using a forehand slice on approach to the net, rather than powerful groundstrokes to keep Bautista Agut, who still produced flashy winners, guessing and on the back foot.
Just as the match was in the balance, Djokovic made his move with terrific athleticism and net rushing in the sixth game on Bautista Agut’s serve.
Two smash winners helped Djokovic to a 4-2 advantage, but the pressure didn’t let up on the Serbian as he saved two breaks points — the second, with a backhand to end a 45-stroke rally. Djokovic hit his second double fault of the match at 5-3, 40/0, but struck a low forehand volley winner to seal the set.