The 28-year-old Roberto Bautista Agut claimed a victory of his career up to that point in Shanghai 2016, ousting the reigning champion and world no. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 48 minutes, advancing to his first Masters 1000 final!
It was their sixth meeting and the first victory for Spaniard, who overpowered the Serb when it mattered the most to claim the win. Roberto fended off seven out of nine break points (seven in the final two games), delivering brave and aggressive tennis and keeping his serve intact until the second part of the second set against the world's best returner.
The closing stages produced a real drama, with five breaks in a row and some thrilling points before the Spaniard held his nerves to convert the fourth match point to seal the deal. Novak served at 66%, but just like against Zverev, that didn't bring him much, with no free points or easy serve & groundstrokes combinations.
Bautista Agut returned well, winning 41% of the points on Djokovic's serve and securing four breaks from five opportunities. Bautista Agut had 17 winners and 26 unforced errors, staying aggressive and keeping the points on his racquet.
That was best illustrated in the shortest points distribution. Roberto won 42 and Novak "only" 33, with the Spaniard following the Serb's pace in the mid-range exchanges to earn the triumph. Novak had a 16-9 advantage in the longest points, but that wasn't enough to make a big difference.
The first set was very close, and both players raced through the opening eight games with no troubles on serve, engaged in an incredible baseline battle with strong, precise shots from both wings. The ninth game could have been crucial for the overall outcome, as Novak created two break chances and had a colossal opportunity to convert the second.
In Shanghai 2016, Roberto Bautista Agut toppled Novak Djokovic in straight sets.
Still, he played a poor shot at the net and got passed by Bautista Agut, who held and stayed in front. Novak was the better player on the court so far, but that all changed in game ten when he served to stay in the set, as Bautista Agut broke him on his first break chance to steal the opener 6-4.
The level of tennis remained on a high note in the first part of the second set, with nothing to separate two rivals in the first five games! After that, the result went back and forth, with five straight breaks that came out of nowhere.
The Spaniard broke in game six for a 4-2 lead, but Novak finally showed some of his return skills, breaking back in the next one for his first successful return game of the encounter. He had two game points in the next game to level the score at 4-4 and gain the momentum, but Roberto found the way to break him and jump into a 5-3 lead, moving a game away from victory.
The ninth game produced the entire clash's biggest drama, with six deuces and three match points up for grabs for Bautista Agut. His nerves were getting up to him, missing a lot of first serves and not being able to punch that final stroke and seal the deal.
Novak saved three match points before converting the fourth break point to stay alive and serve for 5-5. It wasn't to be for Djokovic, though, suffering another break and sending Bautista Agut over the top and into his first Masters 1000 final.