The match picked up tempo in the second set, where the Serb used drop shots to offset Agut, who was standing so far behind the baseline he might as well have been striking the ball from his hometown of Castello de la Plana in Spain. In the fifth game, Djokovic ripped his shirt when he failed to convert a breakpoint.
After the next point, the top seed went to change his shirt for which he received a time violation warning. “I don’t understand the decisions that he has made,” Djokovic said of the chair umpire. “When I went to change my racquet, I changed my shirt and he gives me a warning. He was the star of the show. That’s what he wanted to be today.”
In a long-drawn ninth game, where advantage swung back and forth, Agut had three match points, but was broken on his fourth breakpoint. Then in the tenth game, Agut ripped a vicious forehand down-the-line to close the match. “After the passing shot in the last point, I was so happy,” Agut said. “I couldn’t imagine me closing out the match against Novak.” Novak Djokovic ripped his shirt, smashed his racquet, received a warning for time violation and got into a verbal exchange with chair umpire Carlos Bernardes, who the world No.1 later called, ‘the star of the show’. It was Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, however, who was the man of the semi-finals at the Shanghai Rolex Masters on Saturday, toppling the top seed and handing Djokovic only his second defeat in 23 outings in this picturesque Chinese port city.
Agut, who hadn’t beaten the world No.1 in five previous meetings, had another first -making his maiden Masters final. The 28-yearold won 6-4, 6-4 and will play second seed Andy Murray in Sunday’s final. Murray put out Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-3 in a late-evening clash, to give his charge to the yearend No.1 ranking a powerful push. Agut, who closed out on his fourth match point, said. “The first time I played Novak (three years ago, in Dubai), I thought he was from another planet. Now I think I’m closer to him.”
Djokovic, whose mental equation has become the talk of tennis, failed to control the big points. “I didn’t feel as great mentally, but credit to Roberto, he was the better player in important moments,” he said.
“I did have chances, but I was losing my service games. In important moments, he was more consistent, more solid. I just made too many unforced errors. I didn’t feel as well as I did other days. We’re all human, we experience these oscillations every day.”
Statically there wasn’t much to pick between the two players in the middle at the Qi Zhong stadium. Agut, a year younger in age, won just four points more in the last-four clash. Crucially, the Spaniard converted four of five breakpoint opportunities while his fancied opponent converted just two of nine chances in the match. The tennis wasn’t spectacular in the first set, with both players erring too many times on the backhand side. In the tenth game, a mistimed lob gave Agut set point and Djokovic obliged by sending a backhand wide.