SHANGHAI: Andy Murray blasted his way into the Shanghai Masters final on Saturday but holder Novak Djokovic angrily smashed his racquet and ripped his shirt as he crashed out to Roberto Bautista.
Murray was made to work in a rollercoaster first set against Gilles Simon featuring seven breaks of serve, 37-shot rallies and bursts of irritable chatter from the Scot.
But he came through 6-4, 6-3 to set up a final against Spain’s Bautista, who extended top-ranked Djokovic’s miserable run of form with a thrilling win against the Serb.
The defending champion and 12-time Grand Slam winner was broken four times and repeatedly lost his temper as he went down 6-4, 6-4, much to the dismay of his army of Chinese fans.
The world number one has been nosediving since he won his first French Open title in June, losing early at Wimbledon and the Olympics and complaining he had lost motivation.
And Djokovic, a three-time champion in Shanghai, lost his cool in a stormy appearance at Shanghai’s Qi Zhong Tennis Centre as his slump in form continued.
Djokovic admitted he “didn’t feel good” mentally and he lashed out at Brazilian chair umpire Carlos Bernardes, who he had also targeted during the match.
“I just don’t understand, you know, the decisions that he has made,” Djokovic grumbled.
“When you go to change your racquet, I went to change my (ripped) shirt and then he gives me a warning. Well, he was the star of the show. That’s what he wanted to be today.”
– ‘Are you seeing anything?’ –
Nineteenth-ranked 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 racquet into the deck.
Djokovic grabbed a towel and cleaned up his racquet splinters as the second set got underway, 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.
Then Djokovic, angry at failing to secure a break point in game five, petulantly tore his shirt at the neck and went to change it mid-game, receiving 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 game nine.
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.
Later, Murray was broken in the very first game in a warning that he wouldn’t have it all his own way against Simon, despite his 14-2 record against the Frenchman.
Murray became irritated with line-calls and spectators moving in the stands before he broke for the set by sending a Simon lob straight back over the Frenchman’s head.
Victory was a formality when Murray went two breaks up in the second set, and he served it out after 103 minutes to set up an attempt at a third Shanghai title in Sunday’s final.