Novak Djokovic solves the Roberto Bautista Agut problem to march into ‘dream’ final

Novak Djokovic celebrates his semi-final victory. Picture: Tim Ireland/AFP/Getty Images
Novak Djokovic celebrates his semi-final victory. Picture: Tim Ireland/AFP/Getty Images
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And to think Roberto Bautista Agut gave up his stag weekend for this: a four-set, almost three-hour clumping by Novak Djokovic.

So convinced was the Spaniard that he would not be involved in the business end of Wimbledon that he had booked his long weekend away with the boys in Ibiza weeks ago. And then he reached the semi-finals. So he called the boys back from the bars and the sunshine and brought them to SW19. And then Djokovic did what Djokovic tends to do at this stage of a major championships – he pulled rank and won 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 .

The top seed reached his 25th grand slam final having won the 12th of his last 13 grand slam semi-finals.

The first set is best forgotten: Bautista Agut seemed crippled by stage fright (it was, as far as anyone could make out, his first match on Centre Court). But the second set – now this was getting interesting.

The huge Spanish forehand was unwrapped and wielded with impressive and bullying efficiency while Djokovic got tight. The world No 1 was spraying errors hither and thither while Bautista Agut was taking on the master of defence from the baseline and making him work.

When the set went his way courtesy of a net cord that seemed to sit on the tape, think long and hard about what to do next and then finally decide to land on Djokovic’s side of the court, the crowd were on their feet cheering. Djokovic fumed and growled.

“I had to dig deep,” Djokovic said. “It’s semi-finals and Roberto was playing his first semi-final at a grand slam but, regardless of that, he was not really overwhelmed with the stadium and with the occasion. He played really well. First set, he was still probably managing his nerves and he made some uncharacteristic unforced errors but then at the beginning of the second, he established himself.

“He started to play better. He placed his serves really, really nicely, he opened the points. I got a bit tight and that was a very close probably opening four or five games of the third set. That’s where the match could have gone different ways.”

It went his way because, once he had broken for a 4-2 lead, he started to construct his points with such care that he appeared to be trying to play chess with bat and ball. He pulled Bautista all over the court to create spaces and clump away the winner. “This has been the dream tournament for me when I was a child.” Djokovic said, “so to be in another final is a dream come true. Playing finals in Wimbledon is different, so I’ll definitely enjoy that experience.”

And with that, he was off to watch the second semi-final: Federer and Nadal. “Of course I will watch it,” he said. “I’m a fan of that match-up as well: Federer-Nadal is one of the most epic rivalries of all time.”

He would say that: he has a winning record over both of them.

l Scotland’s Gordon Reid and English partner Alfie Hewitt are through to today’s final of the wheelchair doubles after beating the No 1 seeds. The home pair won 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (4) against France’s Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer, the duo they beat in the 2016 final.