Defending champion Novak Djokovic continued his march towards a fifth Wimbledon title by dispatching the 23rd seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2 4-6 6-3 6-2. Djokovic had lost his last two matches to Bautista Agut, which came earlier this season in Qatar, where Bautista Agut won the title, and at the Miami Open, with Bautista Agut rallying from a set down on both occasions. But as he discovered, Djokovic is a different beast in the latter stages at the Grand Slams.
Djokovic made a fast start, breaking in Bautista Agut’s first service game as the Spaniard’s forehand, his best shot, misfired. Understandably nervous in his first Grand Slam semifinal, he struggled to stay with Djokovic in the early running, though he did find some success with his serve out wide to the Djokovic forehand. But it was fleeting, as Djokovic began to pick it on return. The Serbian broke again at the death to take the opener 6-2.
But at that point, the top seed’s concentration wavered. Bautista Agut was not slow to take advantage. From 0-1 down in the second set, Bautista Agut reeled off 12 out of 13 points to hold to love, break the Djokovic serve to 15 before holding to love again. He forced two more break points in Djokovic’s next service game, although the Serb was able to hold him off. But there was no doubt that it was Bautista Agut who was in the ascendancy.
Djokovic’s forehand, in particular, crumbled. But his game lacked conviction in its entirety. Even his fabled return, so long the cornerstone of his successes, was wayward. Just as he had in Doha and Florida, Bautista Agut had found a way to break Djokovic’s concentration, bringing the great Serbian’s level down towards his own. Serving it out with the aid of a big net cord up set point, Bautista Agut claimed the second set 6-4 to draw level in the match.
In the third set, there was at first little to separate them. But in the sixth game of the set, Bautista Agut blinked. Djokovic broke to take a 4-2 lead and despite Bautista Agut’s best efforts, he was unable to rally. He did force two break back points in the next game, but Djokovic saved them both, the second after a 45-shot rally which Djokovic won with a rifled backhand down the line. Shortly after, Djokovic took the set with a drop volley that just kissed the net as it floated over.
At the start of the fourth, the 15-time Major champion pressed hard for a break, but Bautista Agut fought him off with some superb play, including some stunning volleys. But Djokovic came again in his next service game and this time there was to be no escape for the Spaniard. A backhand sailed beyond the baseline to hand Djokovic the break and leave Bautista Agut staring into the abyss. It was still not vintage Djokovic, but he was doing more than enough to put Bautista Agut down in the dirt.
He broke again to take a 4-1 lead and seal Bautista Agut’s fate. The man from Castellon de la Plana had fought valiantly, but in the end he had been outclassed. There was, after all, a reason that Djokovic was competing in his 36th Grand Slam semifinal and Bautista Agut his first. He held once more to ask Djokovic the serve it out question, but the defending champion answered it to reach his fifth Wimbledon final. The question now is: who will meet him there?
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