It Will be Djokovic and Raonic for the Western & Southern Open Title
Novak Djokovic had Roberto Bautista Agut exactly where he wanted him.
The script-flipping Serb had dropped four straight games and was nearly coughing up a lung, on the brink of defeat and exhaustion at the back of the court before he mounted a surge and won 12 of the final 13 points to defeat the Spaniard 4-6 6-4 7-6(0) on Friday.
Just another gripping victory for the World No.1.
Bautista Agut had won three consecutive matches on hard courts against Djokovic, so that explains why Djokovic was willing to battle through fatigue and a sore neck in a roller coaster contest that lasted just a hair over three hours.
After the match Djokovic was deemed too ill to even speak to reporters in a press conference, so you’ll just have to take our word for it.
After the gut-wrenching loss, the Spaniard, who did speak to press, was eager to take the positives from his first week back on the court after five months off due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
“I can take the other way and think that I made a good comeback to the tour level,” he said. “I played really good matches this week, and I was serving for the match against the No.1.”
A decision to close the roof on Louis Armstrong Stadium in anticipation of rain late (which came, but not until later) in the second set left Bautista Agut feeling a little cheated. He was to serve at 4-5 but had to wait and was broken immediately when play resumed.
“Everybody knows that they could wait a little bit, no?” the Spaniard said. “It was an unfortunate decision. It’s not the first time I disagree with [umpire] Lars Graff. I think it was not great and it was wrong.”
Momentum stayed with Djokovic, who led 5-2 in the third before Bautista Agut hit back to earn a chance to serve for the final.
That’s when Djokovic slipped into his air of invincibility and grabbed hold of the contest.
The Serb improves to 22-0 on the season and 10-0 in tiebreaks in 2020. He served three aces in the breaker and never let Bautista Agut have a chance.
In the first semi-final Canada’s Milos reached his first Western & Southern Open final and his first final at any Masters level event since 2016 with a 7-6(5) 6-3 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The Canadian battled through a tight first set and then managed to be the first player all tournament to break the Greek’s serve as he pulled away to victory in one hour and 37 minutes to reach his 23rd career ATP final.
Djokovic and Raonic for the Trophy
Saturday will represent a tall order for the 30-year-old Ontario native. Raonic has lost all ten matches he has played against Djokovic, including a three-set battle that took place at the Western & Southern Open in the quarter-finals in 2018.
The Canadian, who leads all players with 88 aces thus far in the tournament, is nevertheless happy with his form since returning from the long layoff. It should give him confidence.
“I think I'm moving much better than I definitely have in recent years,” he said. “I think that's putting me in better position so I'm able to be more effective and more aggressive earlier. I'm able to play more on my terms and quicker on in the points.”
Djokovic will bid to tie Rafael Nadal on the all-time Masters 1000 title list with 35 on Saturday. He’ll bid for his 80th ATP title overall.
Raonic improves to 19-6 lifetime at the Western and Southern and will be bidding for his 8th career ATP title.