Tennis

Wimbledon 2019: Djokovic holds off spirited Spanish challenge to reach final

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in action during the semifinal match against Spain’s Bautista Agut at the Wimbledon 2019 tennis tournament in London on July 12, 2019.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in action during the semifinal match against Spain’s Bautista Agut at the Wimbledon 2019 tennis tournament in London on July 12, 2019.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Djokovic will be seeking his fifth title at Wimbledon and 16th Grand Slam singles crown on Sunday.

Novak Djokovic’s wiry, elastic genius will make its sixth appearance in a Wimbledon final on Sunday, following the successful weathering of a tough challenge from Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. 

Coming into the match, Djokovic had lost both his recent matches against the Spaniard, in Doha and Miami, early this year. But it was always going to be a difficult proposition in a best-of-five sets affair, where the Serb held a 3-0 advantage, with all victories coming in four sets.

“It is dream come true to be in another final,” Djokovic said after the win. “Regardless of my history and the many finals I have played here, it is always a different feeling to get to a Wimbledon final and I will enjoy the experience.”

Racing ahead

To be sure, Agut has always had the game to ruffle Djokovic. Unlike a typical Spanish grinder, he wields a flatter stroke. Djokovic, perhaps mindful of this, hit with way more topspin than usual to disrupt the rhythm. But by the time Agut had could get wind of it, Djokovic had raced ahead, breaking twice — in the second and eighth games — to take the first set.

The situation seemed eerily similar for Agut, in that, in each of his two recent victories over Djokovic he had lost the first set. Like then, he came into his own in the second, breaking to go 2-1 up, courtesy a delightful inside-out winner.

He did squander the chance to take a 4-1 lead, allowing Djokovic to claw back from 15-40 down, an ace and a service winner helping the Serb. However, to his credit, Agut didn’t let his level drop. He put the four-time champion in uncomfortable positions from where he could get out only with the best of efforts. 

Drawing level

Agut often fell back on his inside-out forehand. Such was his positioning that he could deceptively change direction and go for the inside-in too and drive it down the line. Serving for the set at 5-4, Djokovic had a look at the Agut serve at 30-30 but a great first serve and a net-cord winner off another attempted inside-out forehand helped him level the match.

The opening five games of the third set were tight, but neither player cracked. In the sixth game though, with Agut serving, Djokovic forced the issue. After having absorbed all the pressure, at 15-15 an engaging all-court rally ended with Djokovic reading a lob right and executing a remarkable on the turn pass. The 32-year-old won the next two points by pinning Agut to the backhand corner and knocking off volleys.

In the next service game, Djokovic fell behind 15-40 but three good serves and 45-shot rally, which he won off a glorious down-the-line backhand, seemed to liberate him completely. He held on to win the set 6-3. 

Fighting on

Agut was immediately under pressure in the fourth, but hung on after multiple deuces with a couple of great volleys, which even drew appreciation from his opponent. But by then Djokovic had sunk his teeth into the contest and finished it off with a cold relentlessness.

“I had to dig deep,” Djokovic admitted. “Roberto was playing his first semifinal but he was really not overwhelmed. He played very well. In the first set, he made a few uncharacteristic errors but soon established himself. He placed his serve very well and I got a bit tight. It was also a very close four or five games early in the third set and it could have gone either way. Hopefully it went my way.”

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Printable version | Jun 29, 2020 6:34:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/all-england-lawn-tennis-championship-wimbledon-2019-tennis-tournament-day-11/article28414009.ece

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