World no. 1 Novak Djokovic advanced to his seventh Cincinnati final, outplaying Roberto Bautista Agut 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 in three hours! It was the match of the week at the first Masters 1000 event of the season on Louis Armstrong Stadium, with the Spaniard pushing the Serb to the limits while seeking the fourth straight victory over him on hard courts.
Bautista Agut made a remarkable comeback in the decider, bouncing back from 5-2 down to rattle off four consecutive games and serve for the victory at 6-5. Still, Novak found the way to break back and reach a tie break that he won 7-0, advancing into the 51st Masters 1000 final and matching Rafael Nadal's record.
It was also Djokovic's 22nd win from as many matches in 2020, adding more points to his tally and extending the gap to Rafael Nadal in the year-end no. 1 battle. Struggling with a neck injury and some stomach problems, Novak endured all the issues and a great rival on the other side of the net to join Milos Raonic in the final, seeking the 35th Masters 1000 crown and the best way to prepare for the next week's US Open.
Djokovic won seven points more overall thanks to that dominant tie break, getting broken six times from 12 chances offered to Bautista Agut and converting six out of 14 return opportunities. Novak still had 41 winners and 43 unforced errors after such a grueling and dynamic battle, keeping his rival on a 26-31 ratio and prevailing in the crucial moments.
The Serb had a slim advantage in the shortest and mid-range exchanges, winning two points less than the Spaniard in the most extended rallies that saw 44 contests with nine or more shots.
Novak Djokovic prevailed over Bautista Agut after three hours in Cincinnati.
They traded breaks in games three and four, with Bautista Agut securing another one at 3-3 to move in front.
He fended off a break chance to remain ahead in the next game, sealing the opener with a hold in game ten for 6-4 in 43 minutes. The second set also saw ten games, and it lasted for over an hour. This time, Novak got broken once, earning two return games to prevail and force a decider.
The Serb led 4-1 before the Spaniard came back to 4-4 and increased the drama. They had to close the roof just before Roberto served at 4-5, and that took focus from him, getting broken at love and handing the set to Novak, who had the upper hand now.
From 2-1 down in the decider, Djokovic claimed four straight games to forge a 5-2 lead, suffering a break at love while serving for the victory at 5-3 to keep the rival in. A terrible forehand error cost Novak another break at 5-5, allowing Bautista Agut to serve for the triumph.
It wasn't to be for the Spanish player, though, spraying a forehand error to keep Djokovic in contention and fading from the court in the breaker to propel Novak over the top.