Perfection is no easy feat, and Novak Djokovic’s undefeated record this season was certainly put to the test late Friday afternoon.
The World No. 1 fended off apparent neck discomfort and an unrelenting opponent to beat eighth seed Roberto Bautista Agut 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(0) in three hours, one minute en route to the Western & Southern Open final. Djokovic is now 22-0 on the season.
For a large portion of the memorable match, Bautista Agut was doing to Djokovic what the Serbian does to the rest of the ATP Tour. The Spaniard locked down in baseline rallies and forced the top seed to do something special to beat him. Djokovic carved many drop shots to try to get Bautista Agut off his game, and in many instances that didn’t work.
Even still, Djokovic took control and appeared on the verge of victory when leading 5-2 in the third set. But Bautista Agut never went away, rallying to serve for the match at 6-5. But Djokovic went into “lockdown mode” and not only got back on serve, but blitzed the Spaniard in the ensuing tie-break. Djokovic has won 19 of his past 20 tie-breaks dating back to winning three of them against Roger Federer in last year’s Wimbledon final.
Djokovic snapped a three-match hard-court losing streak against the 32-year-old. Bautista Agut was trying to become one of only three players to win four consecutive hard-court matches against Djokovic, joining Andy Roddick and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The top seed is pursuing his second Career Golden Masters. Djokovic has won all nine Masters 1000 events at least twice, with the exception of the Western & Southern Open. He is also trying to match Rafael Nadal’s record of 35 Masters 1000 trophies.
The 33-year-old will play former World No. 3 Milos Raonic in the championship match, in which the Canadian will chase his first Masters 1000 title. The World No. 1 leads the pair’s ATP Head2Head series 10-0.
A key moment came at 1-2 in the second set, when Djokovic received a neck adjustment from an ATP physio. That seemed to give the Serbian a burst of energy. Instead of bailing out of rallies against the Spaniard, he increased his aggression and with his high level of play took the match from Bautista Agut, who was trying to reach his second Masters 1000 final.