Roberto Bautista-Agut produced an unbelievably brilliant performance to beat Novak Djokovic 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 and reach the final of the Qatar Open in Doha on Friday.
The Spaniard came into the match with just one win in eight matches against Djokovic, and when the Serb took the first set and set sail in the second, it looked as though it was going to be another routine victory. But Bautista-Agut would up his aggression and begin to land blows, his flat cross-court groundstrokes doing the damage.
The second set was decided by a tiebreaker which Bautista-Agut sealed to force a final set. Thereafter, he broke serve almost immediately and never looked back.
“I will remember this match all my life. It was an unbelievable atmosphere,” Bautista-Agut said on court. “I work every day to play this tennis. I know it’s difficult to play at this level. That’s why Novak is number one in the world. But I cannot be more happy than I am now.
“I wanted to give everything I had in the match and fight until the last point,” the 30-year-old added. “Finally I could turn the second set. Novak was up and it was really tough. He was very solid and I had to play very good tennis. I had to play a lot of lines and serve very well. I did everything well today.”
Djokovic saw his 13-match winning streak in Doha come to an end, but he remained magnanimous in defeat and praised his opponent’s doggedness.
“I want to congratulate him,” Djokovic said. “Especially in the third set he played well. I thought he was hitting the ball very clean and not making a lot of errors.
“I lost the match. That’s it. He managed to turn things around, obviously at the end of the second set. I thought I was pretty much in control of the match,” Djokovic said. “He played a good game. I missed some easy balls and that’s what you get as a result of losing the focus in the most important moments. And it happens, it happens.”
Bautista-Agut has now come within touching distance of a ninth ATP Tour trophy and will take on Thomas Berdych in Saturday’s final. Czech’s Berdych proved too solid for Marco Cecchinato, registering a 7-6, 6-3 victory.