The world no. 1 Novak Djokovic had been the supreme ruler of the 'Sunshine double,' winning Indian Wells and Miami three times in a row between 2014-16 and failing to reach at least the quarter-final at the first Masters 1000 events of the season ever since!
Twelve months ago, he suffered two tough defeats in the early rounds, still dealing with the physical shape after an elbow injury, hoping to fix that in 2019 after conquering the tennis throne once again in the rest of the last year.
Instead of that, Djokovic lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber at Indian Wells and his Miami campaign turned out to be a short one as well, suffering a tough 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 loss to Roberto Bautista Agut in two hours and 29 minutes.
Roberto toppled Novak in the semi-final of Doha in the first week of the season and managed to repeat that today after a terrible start, dropping the opening set in just over 30 minutes and saving a break point at 5-5 in the second set.
A rain delay probably helped the Spanish player to shake off the pressure and return stronger, overpowering Novak with flat and aggressive shots to advance into the first Masters 1000 quarter-final since Montreal in 2017!
Bautista Agut won just one point more than his opponent, fending off nine out of 13 break points and converting four out of seven chances he earned to match Novak's pace in sets two and three and cross the finish line first.
They had a similar number of winners and unforced errors and Bautista Agut forged a slim advantage in the shortest points up to four strokes and also in the most extended ones to emerge at the top and set the quarter-final clash with John Isner.
Novak settled into a nice rhythm already after the first ball he hit, breaking Roberto at love in game two and scoring another one at 3-0 after a forehand error from the Spaniard who sprayed another one in the following game and found himself 5-0 down after 19 minutes of play!
He avoided a bagel after saving a set point in game six before Novak closed the set with an ace for a 6-1 in 32 minutes, looking keen to grab the win in no time at all. They traded breaks at the beginning of the second set and Bautista Agut saved three break points in game three to remain in contention, repelling another one at 3-3 to build the confidence and momentum.
After the ninth game, the rain sent them off the court for almost an hour and Djokovic had the opportunity to secure the win with a break in game 11, netting an easy forehand that would prove to be the crucial miss of the entire encounter.
He had to pay the price in the very next game when Bautista Agut broke him following another forehand mistake from the Serb who lost the set 7-5 and all the drive he had after the opening set. The third set was decided in the middle games, with Bautista Agut saving a couple of break points in game three to break Novak's serve twice in a row, opening a 4-2 advantage when Djokovic's backhand landed long and sealing the deal with two excellent holds in games seven and nine.
Roberto started a huge celebration when he painted a forehand down the line winner at 5-3 for the 14th triumph of the season and the place in the last eight.