Monday 15 July 2019

Reigning champion Novak Djokovic sees off brave Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut to reach Wimbledon decider

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning his semi-final match against Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut REUTERS/Toby Melville
Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning his semi-final match against Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut REUTERS/Toby Melville

Jonathan Veal

A tetchy Novak Djokovic booked his place in the final after ending Roberto Bautista Agut's Wimbledon party.

The reigning champion overcame a slump midway through the semi-final, which saw him bait the Centre Court crowd, to win 6-2 4-6 6-3 6-2 and reach a sixth SW19 showpiece and 25th overall in grand slams.

This match was always billed as the appetiser to the main event - the second last-four clash between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal - and it provided suitable entertainment to whet the appetite.

Bautista Agut, playing in his first grand slam semi-final, has had to delay his stag do in Ibiza this week due to his unexpected run in the tournament, but he showed he was not ready for his time in London to end just yet.

He outplayed the world number one in the second set to level the match up, much to the delight of the crowd, which in turned irked Djokovic.

But an angry Djokovic is often an unplayable one and he whizzed through the final two sets to move within one win of a fifth Wimbledon crown.

The Spaniard, who had beaten Djokovic twice on tour this year, will at least be able to drown his sorrows in the Mediterranean as he and his six friends are due to fly out later on.

'Amnesia' is one of the big super clubs on the party island and Bautista Agut will be keen to forget the first set.

For the opening half an hour it looked like the first point of the match was as good as it was going to get for him.

After he fired an unplayable backhand return that arrowed down the line for a brilliant winner, things quickly deteriorated and Djokovic surged into a 3-0 lead after taking his opponent's serve at the first attempt.

It took the 31-year-old 17 minutes to get on the board, but Djokovic was in the zone, playing at his imperious best, and he took the set with a second break, courtesy of another forehand error from Bautista Agut.

Both of his previous wins over Djokovic this year came from a set down, so he found himself in familiar territory as he looked to mount a repair job.

Bautista Agut was helped by a significant drop in his opponent's level, which allowed him to steal a break early in the second set.

Errors were beginning to come regularly from Djokovic's racket and Bautista Agut shook off two more missed break points to serve the set out.

Djokovic was seemingly upset at the crowd's support of the underdog, baiting them by ironically throwing his arms up and later putting his finger against his lips.

Perhaps he was just using it as a tool to fire himself up because it worked.

The Serb broke in the sixth game and then immediately held off two break-back points, the second one coming after a 45-shot rally that had him cupping his ear to the Centre Court crowd.

He was able to serve out the third set to regain his lead and, sensing blood, he made a move at the start of the fourth.

Bautista Agut had to fend off three break points in a 13-minute opening game, but could not stem the tide much longer and Djokovic grabbed two successive breaks to ensure he got the job done in four sets.

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