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Shanghai Masters 2016: Djokovic upset by Bautista Agut, No.1 ranking imperilled as Murray lurks

Roberto Bautista Agut celebrates after win over Novak Djokovic. Photo: Lintao Zhang Novak Djokovic of Serbia takes off his shirt after losing a point to Roberto Bautista Agut. Photo: ANDY WONG
Nanjing Night Net

Shanghai: A shirt-ripping, racquet-destroying, umpire-damning Novak Djokovic has suffered another setback in his quest to hold off Andy Murray’s challenge for the No.1 ranking, beaten 6-4, 6-4 in the semi-finals of the Shanghai Rolex Masters by Spanish 15th seed Roberto Bautista Agut.

Djokovic, who is being pursued by his British rival, continued with his relatively indifferent form and admitted he did not feel “great mentally” during the one hour, 47-minute match. Murray, meanwhile, reached his 10th final of the season – a career best – by defeating Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-3, and extended to 20 a winning sequence against French opponents.

Australians, who have fared almost as badly against the world No.2, are in good – if not happy – company.

Yet, until recent months, Djokovic’s struggles have been less common. The dominant player of the past few seasons has won just one title since the emotional completion of his career grand slam at the French Open in June. He claimed his seventh title of the year at the Toronto Masters, but was beaten in the US Open final, the third round of Wimbledon and the first round of the Rio Olympics. In his words, recent results have been “up and down”.

The Serb gave the appropriate credit to Bautista Agut, who reached his first Masters 1000 final with superb defence and admirable consistency, despite failing to serve out the match at 5-3, when unable to convert his first three match points. He then broke Djokovic for the fourth time, stabbing a forehand winner down the line for his first success in six attempts against the top seed and defending three-time Shanghai champion.

“There are definitely things that I need to (regain) kind of from the emotional/mental point of view,” Djokovic said. “So, yeah, I guess I’m focusing on that more, so 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. So maybe all in all that’s the cause of me feeling this way.

“But I had to experience sooner or later this. I knew I could not go on playing on highest level for so many years all the time, you know, but it’s good to experience this so I can hopefully get better in the period to come.”

With the winner of Sunday’s Murray v Bautista Agut final earning 1000 points, and Djokovic unable to defend his full complement from 2016, the Scot could make up almost half of his deficit in Shanghai. He also claimed last year’s China Open title without dropping either his serve, or a set.

As Djokovic’s hold on the year-end No.1 spot he has held for four of the past five years is loosening, his air of invincibility, too, has dissipated, with the 29-year-old so frustrated with his uncharacteristically-high error rate that he destroyed a racquet at the end of the first set. Having spoken after his scratchy quarter-final of the need to turn down the heat on his emotions a notch from full boiling point, Djokovic admitted that was easier to achieve on some occasions than others.

“I guess this is one of those days … (when) things go in an opposite direction than you want them, but again, it’s a lesson. Every day is a lesson… you learn from these kind of days and matches more than when you’re winning,” he said.

Djokovic had an animated post-match exchange with chair umpire Carlos Bernades over a time violation warning he received in the fifth game of the second set after changing the shirt he had ripped at the throat in frustration two points earlier.

Having branded the decision “ridiculous” after shaking Bernades’ hand, Djokovic said later: “Yeah, I just don’t understand the decisions that he has made. You know, when you go to change your racquet, I went to change my shirt and then he gives me a warning. Well, he was the star of the show. That’s what he wanted to be today.”

Djokovic, who had not played between the US Open and Shanghai due to an elbow injury, said he did not expect to contest another tournament before the Paris Masters from October 31. “I’m going to celebrate my son’s second birthday,” Djokovic said. “That’s an event I look forward to. I’m going to do a lot of things off the court, plenty of things off the court.”

The ATP World Tour Finals in London will complete his season, the 12-time major winner having finished at No.1 in 2011-12 and 2014-15. “It’s not yet over. So there is couple of big tournaments still along the way: Paris and London. I’ll try to get ready for indoor season where I always, in the last couple of years, played pretty well. I’ll try to get better.”

Murray, the first player to reach four Shanghai finals, said the year-end No.1 ranking was not his target. “My goal is not to try and reach No.1 this year. I’d have to win pretty much every match between now and the end of the year. And Novak would not have to win hardly any. So it’s not in my hands.

“I want to try and get there, but I don’t think doing that by the end of this year is that realistic. So I just want to try and finish this year as strong as I can. Maybe give myself a chance at doing it the early part of next year.”

Another Masters 1000 victory would help, though, and Murray was wary of the Bautista Agut threat. “The surface is pretty fast, and I think because of his game style – he hits the ball very flat on both sides (and) that’s not typical for a Spaniard – I think that helps him.

“He looks to dictate a lot of the points with his forehand if he can. He has a classical swing. It’s not like a lot of the guys I have known. A lot of topspin, very clean striker of the ball. He moves extremely well. Doesn’t have the biggest serve but places it well, and he’s a very good mover, so it will be a tough match, for sure. I need to play well.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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