Bautista Agut Stuns Djokovic In Miami
"I played more aggressive. I tried to miss fewer balls, to be really concentrated on the beginning of the point with my serve, with my return. At the end, it worked well," Bautista Agut said.
Djokovic held for 5-5 in the second set following a rain delay that lasted about 40 minutes and earned a break point in the next game, which if converted would have allowed him to serve for a straight-sets victory. But the Spaniard hit a short slice that Djokovic missed into the net with his forehand. From there, Bautista Agut raised his level and aggression to triumph after two hours and 29 minutes.
"He's a solid player. Congratulations to him definitely for a great comeback," Djokovic said. "But this kind of match I should not have lost. So many opportunities. Just way too many wasted opportunities. This is what happens when you don't capitalise on time."
It is Bautista Agut’s second three-sets victory against Djokovic this season, having also defeated the World No. 1 in Doha to start the year en route to lifting the trophy. "It helped me at the end of the match, no? I had confidence to play at a really high level at the end of the match, and I could close the match well with my serve," Bautista Agut said.
He will face defending champion John Isner, whom he hasn't played since 2016, in the quarter-finals (Isner leads FedEx ATP Head2Head series 2-1).
This match was a tale of two halves. Djokovic appeared locked in early on, playing like a wall and allowing Bautista Agut to make uncharacteristic mistakes. It took the Serbian just 33 minutes to take a quick lead, just like he did in Doha. But when he broke with a crosscourt forehand passing shot for a winner in the opening game in the second set, it appeared that it would not be the 22nd seed's day.
But Bautista Agut moved closer to the baseline and began hitting the ball harder, landing shots deep in the court and pushing the Serbian back. Few players are willing to trade blows with the World No. 1 from the baseline, but the Spaniard settled in and engaged the top seed in plenty of long rallies, breaking back immediately.
"The key of the match was at the beginning of the second set, no? If I wanted to win the match, I had to be very close with the score. Otherwise Novak, when he gets an advantage, he plays really aggressive. As you saw, the first set I couldn't play at the same level [as him]," Bautista Agut said.
While Djokovic looked eager to close out his opponent after the rain delay, his missed opportunity proved costly. Bautista Agut saved eight of the 10 break points he faced in the final two sets and won 47 per cent of his return points during that span to move on.
Bautista Agut arrived in Miami with a 7-7 record at this tournament. But he is into the quarter-finals here for the first time. His trip to the last eight is his fourth at an ATP Masters 1000 event.
The nine-time ATP Tour champion now has 10 victories against opponents inside the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings (10-46), and he has won three in a row against the elite group, including his triumph against Djokovic in Doha and his win against Marin Cilic at the Australian Open.
Djokovic was pursuing a record seventh trophy in Miami, which would have broken a tie with former World No. 1 Andre Agassi (6). The Serbian also remains one title shy of Rafael Nadal's record of 33 Masters 1000 titles.
Did You Know?
Djokovic entered this match 22-1 in Miami as the World No. 1. He was trying to reach the quarter-finals at the Masters 1000 event for the eighth time.