It’s been smooth sailing for Novak Djokovic so far at the Western & Southern Open, but if history is anything to go by, he may have his work cut out for him in his semifinal.
His opponent will be No. 12-ranked Roberto Bautista Agut, who took out Richard Gasquet and Karen Khachanov, both former Top 10 players, before defeating No. 5-ranked defending champion Daniil Medvedev in the quarterfinals, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3.
More to the point, Bautista Agut has been a thorn in Djokovic’s side over the last few years. Djokovic leads their head-to-head, 8-3, but at this time four years ago it was 5-0. They’ve split their last six meetings, with the Spaniard sneaking out victories at Shanghai in 2016 and then at Doha and Miami in 2019.
Those three wins for Bautista Agut are also the pair’s last three hard-court meetings.
Still, Djokovic seems to be at the top of his game. He hasn’t dropped a set this week in wins over Ricardas Berankis, Tennys Sandgren and Jan-Lennard Struff, and he hasn't even been close to his best. He’s now 21-0 on the year, and combined with winning his last three matches of 2019, he’s riding a 24-match winning streak.
The Serb is through to the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open for the eighth time, tying Jimmy Connors, Stefan Edberg, Roger Federer and Bill Talbert for the all-time tournament record. He’s a one-time champion at this event, lifting the title in 2018.
The head-to-head match-up with Bautista Agut will be on his mind, though.
“We always expect Roberto to play on a certain level,” the 17-time major champion said. “He doesn’t drop. He doesn’t give it away. You have to earn your points. He’s so solid from the back of the court.
“Roberto found a way [against Medvedev] and that is obviously a virtue of champions.”
The Pick: Novak Djokovic