Djokovic Sees Off Bautista Agut
World No. 1 drops first set of 2015 US Open in fourth-round win
Novak Djokovic was made to work hard by an inspired Roberto Bautista Agut in the fourth round of the US Open on Sunday. The top seed prevailed 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 6-3 after three hours and three minutes of grueling baseline tennis. Djokovic finished with 42 winners and 37 unforced errors, while Bautista Agut struck 34 winners and committed 28 errors.
Bautista Agut, No. 23 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, came into the match with a 0-2 record against the World No. 1 and had a 13-match losing streak against Top 10 opponents (3-19 overall). The first set, punctuated by long rallies, went to the favourite, who converted on his fifth break point.
Sensing that his usual brand of consistent play would not be enough to challenge his opponent, Bautista Agut began to strike his forehand with increased aggression. The change in tactics proved effective, as the Spaniard pushed Djokovic far behind the baseline and came back from a break down to claim the second set.
“I started allowing him to control the rallies,” said Djokovic. “I didn't do what I did for set and a half, which was after few balls stepping in and taking control. If you give him an opportunity, if you drop your level, he's a kind of a player, similar to David Ferrer, who is going to get on top of you.”
It was Djokovic’s first lost set of the tournament, and the first time since 2010 that the Serb had dropped a set in the first four rounds of the US Open. He had won 66 straight in pre-quarter-final matches at Flushing Meadows before tonight.
“[Bautista Agut] deserved to win the second set,” said Djokovic, who broke a racquet after losing the set. “I was upset with myself. I was frustrated with the fact from 4-2 and 15/40 I wasn't able to capitalise on those opportunities and to lose five games in a row. I cannot allow myself to do that. It happens. I'm a player who shows emotions. Obviously at that moment it wasn't easy, but I managed to kind of regroup and use the experience of facing these particular situations before in my life, knowing what to do next. So the important thing is that I managed to find a way to win.”
Djokovic found another gear in the third set but Bautista Agut fought hard until the last point, breaking the 2011 US Open champion when he served for the match at 5-2 in the fourth set before succumbing one game later.
“Credit to him for fighting, for making me work,” said Djokovic. “It was a very physical match. I played over three hours, and I’m just glad that I managed to stay tough.”
The Serb improved to 3-0 against his opponent and will face Feliciano Lopez, another Spaniard, in his ninth consecutive US Open quarter-final. Djokovic holds a 5-0 edge in the FedEx ATP Head2Head series. The players’ only Grand Slam meeting took place at the Australian Open in 2007.