Novak Djokovic’s struggles continued Saturday in Shanghai. The defending champion was heavily favored to beat Roberto Bautista Agut in the semifinals but Djokovic suffered his first career loss in six meetings falling 6-4, 6-4 to the Spaniard.
During the defeat, Djokovic smashed his racquet and ripped his shirt in frustration.
“He was a better player, no question about it,” Djokovic said. “In important moments, he was more consistent. He was more solid.”
After starting the season winning six of nine events culminating with a first French Open title and the Nole Slam, Djokovic has won just one tournament in his last five, and now hints of burn out.
“In terms of results it was up and down, but there are definitely things that I need to regain from the emotional, mental point of view,” Djokovic told the press.
“So I guess I’m focusing on that more. It’s a transition somewhere in between, maybe just exhausted by the amount of matches I have had in the last 15 to 20 months,” he added.
“Maybe all in all that’s the cause of me feeling this way. But, I had to experience this sooner or later. I knew I could not go on playing at the highest level for so many years all the time.”
Bautista Agut puts himself into his first career Masters final.
“I can’t describe how I feel. I’m so happy. I played really good tennis this week, and I hope to play the same tennis tomorrow in the final,” Bautista Agut said.
“I tried to force him to play his best tennis. I think in the first set he played some good tennis. He played a little bit better than me,” Bautista Agut said. “But then I knew that I had to increase my level. I had to play more aggressive.
“It’s not easy to play Novak when he’s playing really good. I’m so happy I could beat him. The first time I remember I played him I thought he was from another planet, and now I think I’m closer to him.”
To win his first Masters title, Bautista Agut will have to now beat World No. 2 Andy Murray. The Scot powered to his ninth straight match win breezing past Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-3.
“It was a tough match today,” said Murray. “Probably the hardest one I had this week. Because of the conditions, it felt unbelievably humid on the court. I don’t know if that’s because the stadium was more full and therefore it was warmer.
“It was tough. There were lots of long rallies and a lot of ups and downs. He went up a break in the first set and came back at the end of both sets. It was hard. A lot of long games and I was behind on a few of my service games, too. It was a good one to get through in two sets.”
Murray, who won Shanghai in 2010 and 2011, has beaten Bautista Agut in both prior meetings at 2014 Wimbledon and at 2015 Munich.
Murray has now won nine straight matches and 18 sets in a row. And he’s got a real chance to catch Djokovic for the No. 1 ranking in the next month.
“I said that I want to try to get to No. 1 but this year is going to be extremely difficult,” Murray said. “The loss today helps me a little bit but I’m still quite far away from him, so I’m not thinking about the No. 1 ranking this week or right now.”
Murray is into his 10th final of the year, 20th overall at the Masters level. He’s seeking a 41st career title. Bautista Agut is appearing in his 10th final, 4th of 2016, and he’s bidding for a 5th career crown.
SUNDAY SHANGHAI SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 1:30 pm
DOUBLES FINAL – H. Kontinen (FIN) / J. Peers (AUS) vs J. Isner (USA) / J. Sock (USA)
Not Before 4:30 pm
SINGLES FINAL –  R. Bautista Agut (ESP) vs  A. Murray (GBR)
You Might Like:
Murray Puts Djokovic and No. 1 Ranking On Alert After Shanghai Title
Bautista Agut Turns Around Drought for ATP Dubai Title
Bautista Agut Outlasts Del Potro for ATP Auckland Title
Bautista Agut Downs Rublev, Will Meet Basilashvili For Doha Title
Bautista Agut Batters Finals Rookie Medvedev for ATP Chennai Crown