Novak Djokovic was pushed hard but eventually quashed the challenger of Grand Slam semifinal debutant Roberto Bautista Agut to advance to his second straight Wimbledon final.
The defending champion and top seed beat the Spaniard 6-2 4-6 6-3 6-2 to progress to a sixth final at the All England Club.
There he awaits the winner of the second semifinal between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 12, 2019
“I’ve played Roger here I think two times in finals. I’ve played Rafa also in the 2011 finals. I have a successful score against these guys in finals,” Djokovic said.
“Nevertheless, these are the two biggest rivals that I ever had in my career. Of course, I’m going to be excited and nervous and everything that you can think of.
“I’m going to do my best to control that in some way and be able to portray my best tennis in balanced, hopefully, state throughout the match.”
Bautista Agut, who had won his two meetings with Djokovic in 2019, stretched the world No.1 to almost three hours of intensely physical baseline tennis on Centre Court before the Serb eventually proved superior.
Initially, the match was far from tightly contested when Djokovic raced through the opening set in 36 minutes, picking up where he left off from his straight-sets thrashings of David Goffin and Ugo Humbert in his previous two outings.
Yet the Spaniard, who plays a similar brand of tennis to Djokovic, danced around a backhand in the second set and crushed an inside-out forehand winner to break for a 3-1 lead.
He would go on to win the second set, marking the first set Djokovic had dropped since the third round.
“I think Bautista possesses a lot of quality in his game, but also mentally he’s very consistent. He stays there. He’s very focused. You will not see any outbursts or any downs, so to say, in his attitude on the court. I respect him a lot,” Djokovic said.
“I think he’s very underrated as a player.”
Set three was marked by two significant moments.
The first came in the sixth game when world No.1 wrested control of the tempo to break serve. He earned a break point thanks to a forceful trip to the net, then got Bautista Agut on the run by changing the direction of the ball with an inside-out backhand; he followed that up with a powerful forehand down the line, charged the net again, and swatted away an overhead to lead 4-2.
The second came when Djokovic, in the very next game, survived down two break points when trailing 15-40. On the second, the pair slugged out a 45-stroke rally which Djokovic ended with a crisp backhand winner down the line.
According to IBM, that 45-shot Djokovic-Bautista Agut rally is the longest at #Wimbledon since they started tracking rally length here in 2005.
(Previous record was 42, Nieminen-Tursunov in 2006; women's record is 39, Dechy-Dementieva in 2007)
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) July 12, 2019
It reflected a trend of the match; the longer the rallies went, the more likely the Serb was to win them.
Djokovic broke serve in third and fifth games of the fourth set, and soon led 5-1. He later required five match points, but nonetheless completed his mission.
In the 46 points determined by rallies of nine shots or more, Djokovic won 29.
“At one stage of the match, it could have gone different way. Was very close in the third set. We split sets. Couple of very long games when I broke his serve and he had some breakpoints, very long rally. I managed to make a winner down the line with backhand,” Djokovic analysed.
“Obviously winning that game was crucial for me. It gave me more confidence and relief so I could swing more freely in the next games.
“The fourth set was the best set of the day. I’m really pleased with the way I ended the match.”
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