Djokovic hits breaking point

Novak Djokovic smashing his racket during his 6-4, 6-4 defeat by Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters yesterday. "I knew I could not go on playing at the highest level for so many years all the time," said the Ser
Novak Djokovic smashing his racket during his 6-4, 6-4 defeat by Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters yesterday. "I knew I could not go on playing at the highest level for so many years all the time," said the Serb, a three-time winner of this event.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

World No. 1 rages during Shanghai loss, rants at umpire and cites exhaustion as main factor

SHANGHAI • Novak Djokovic admitted he was worn out from his dominance of the tennis circuit over the past two seasons after his nosedive in form grew steeper yesterday.

The world No. 1 was speaking after a 6-4, 6-4 defeat by 19th-ranked Roberto Bautista Agut in the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters, a tournament he won for the third time last year.

"In terms of results it was up and down, but there are definitely things that I need to regain from the emotional, mental point of view," Djokovic said.

"So I guess I'm focusing on that more. It's a transition somewhere in between, maybe just exhausted by the amount of matches I have had in the last 15 to 20 months.

"Maybe all in all that's the cause of me feeling this way. But... I had to experience this sooner or later. I knew I could not go on playing at the highest level for so many years all the time."

During the match, the Serb smashed his racket, angrily tore his shirt and raged at the chair umpire after he failed to keep his cool in a stormy appearance at Shanghai's Qi Zhong Tennis Centre.

REVEALING THE BURDEN

In terms of results it was up and down, but there are definitely things that I need to regain from the emotional, mental point of view.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC, after his shock loss at the Shanghai Masters.

His frustration clearly showed as he continued his tirade at Brazilian chair umpire Carlos Bernardes to the media.

"I just don't understand, you know, the decisions that he has made," Djokovic grumbled.

"When you go to change your racket, I went to change my (ripped) shirt and then he gives me a warning. Well, he was the star of the show. That was what he wanted to be today."

Bautista put away two brilliant forehands as he fought off break points in the ninth game, and he then pounced as Djokovic was serving to stay in the first set.

A sublime disguised lob set up break point and when Djokovic fired wide to hand over the set, he snapped and repeatedly slammed his racket into the deck.

Djokovic grabbed a towel and cleaned up his racket splinters as the second set got under way, but tempers frayed again at 1-1 over a serve he felt was long.

"Are you seeing anything today? Are you seeing anything?" fumed the Serb, gesticulating at Bernardes.

When Djokovic, angry at failing to secure a break point in the fifth game, theatrically tore his shirt at the neck and went to change it mid-game, he received a time violation warning.

They exchanged breaks before Djokovic was broken again to be left staring at defeat - only to save three match points before getting it back on serve in a tense ninth game.

But a forehand into the net brought up a fourth match point on his own serve, and this time Bautista grabbed the opportunity as he arrowed a pass down the line.

"I'm so happy," said Bautista, who had lost all five previous matches against Djokovic and is now in his first Masters final.

"I'm just so happy how I've played this week.

"I'm feeling really good on this court and I hope to enjoy it until the last point here."

He will be hoping to claim the title today against world No. 2 Andy Murray, who eased past Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-3 in the other semi-final yesterday.

In women's tennis, Kristina Mladenovic beat Daria Gavrilova 7-5, 6-3 to set up a Hong Kong Open final showdown today with Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated her fellow former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-4.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ATP SHANGHAI MASTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 16, 2016, with the headline 'Djokovic hits breaking point'. Print Edition | Subscribe