Novak Djokovic overcame a neck injury, stomach problems and above all a spirited Roberto Bautista Agut to win a titanic three-hour semifinal at the Western & Southern Open on Friday.
After dropping the first set 6-4, the Serb looked down and out at the start of the second set. He was seemingly bothered by his neck, something that has troubled him all week. To add to that Djokovic also looked to be struggling with a stomach problem, and he took a medical timeout to try and stay afloat in the match.
"I don’t know how I won, to be honest," Novak Djokovic said after the match.
Another extended changeover at 4-5 for the closure of the roof resulted in Bautista Agut losing his momentum. The World No. 1 then pounced at the first opportunity, breaking the Spaniard to take the second set 6-4.
The Serb then raced away to a 5-2 lead in the decider, but there was more drama to come. Bautista Agut broke Djokovic twice in succession, winning four straight games, which gave him an opportunity to serve for the match.
In the end though, the resilient Serb showed just why he is a 17-time Grand Slam champion. He won 11 of the last 12 points to win the match in a tiebreak and seal his place in the final.
"He was the better player" - Novak Djokovic lauds Roberto Bautista Agut
The match saw some of the best rallies of the week as two of the most solid baseliners on tour went toe-to-toe with each other. But as has been the norm in his previous few matches against Bautista Agut, Novak Djokovic leaked a few too many unforced errors at the start to surrender the early initiative.
The Serb cleaned up his game later, but still made as many as 41 unforced errors over three sets - which kept Bautista Agut in the hunt till the very end.
Novak Djokovic admitted that Roberto Bautista Agut was the better player in the match, and seemed a little lost for words to explain how he still came away the victor.
"He was the better player, but I somehow pushed through," Djokovic said.
Bautista Agut is known for suffocating his opponents with his flat groundstrokes, not giving them any room to work with. And Djokovic, who often struggles against such players, hasn't had it any different against the Spaniard over the course of his career.
This time, the World No. 1 did manage to break his hardcourt losing streak (of three matches) to Bautista Agut. But the match took so much out of him that he kept his post-match interview extremely short, looking eager to get off the court as soon as possible.
Novak Djokovic added that he was happy with the win, however difficult it was, and that he was looking forward to next day's final.
"A win is a win," Novak Djokovic added in Serbian.
Novak Djokovic will face Milos Raonic in the final of the Western & Southern Open on Saturday, hoping to become the first man to win each Masters 1000 event at least twice. Djokovic is a jaw-dropping 22-0 in match wins for the year so far.Published 29 Aug 2020, 15:31 IST