World no. 1 Novak Djokovic overcame a sloppy start in the quarter finals of the ATP 1000 event in Shanghai against the 110th ranked German Mischa Zverev and stayed on course for a Sunday showdown against second ranked Andy Murray who clearly established himself as the player to beat after beating an in form David Goffin of Belgium for the loss of only four games.
Djokovic who is bidding to claim the year end number one ranking for the third consecutive year and fifth overall, dropped the first set 3-6 and then fell 0-2 with a break of serve in the second set. The last time he had lost to a player ranked outside the top 100, in a Masters 1000, was at the hands of the South African Kevin Anderson in 2008 at Miami, just a couple of months after claiming the first of his 12 grand slam titles at the Australian Open in Melbourne.
The world No.1 would recover to take the second set in a tie-break and from there on the result was never in doubt as he won 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 in two hours and twenty six minutes. He will play the Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut who continued his recent good run against the Frenchman Jo Wilfred Tsonga with a surprisingly easy 6-3, 6-4 win in the opening match on Friday. Djokovic, who is 59-6 for the year, has a 5-0 head to head record against the 15th ranked Spaniard.
The man of the moment Andy Murray, who won last week’s ATP 500 event at the China Open in Beijing, produced a masterly performance for the second consecutive day against in an in form opponent. Having beaten the fast rising Frenchman Lucas Pouille for the loss of only four games, the Scott showed little mercy for the Tokyo runner up David Goffin of Belgium winning 6-2, 6-2, in one hour forty minutes.
Goffin saved two break points to level at 2-2 in the first set but Murray then reeled of five consecutive games to lead 6-2, 1-0. The 5 ft 11 inch Goffin then saved six break points before winning the second game of the second set . Goffin failed to convert on the two break points in the fifth game and paid dearly as Murray did not lose another game to extend his career head to head to 5-0 against Goffin. He has not dropped a set in those five meetings and is now 16-0 in the last eight matches, all in China.
The best match of the day was between the Frenchman Gilles Simon and the American Jack Sock. The 2014 finalist Simon who had upset the U.S. Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka in the round of 16, came through after dropping the first set 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) in two hours and forty one minutes. Neither player deserved to lose but the more experienced Simon kept his nerve despite coming within two points of losing the match as Sock was serving at 5-4 in the tie-break.
The 32nd ranked Simon claimed the next three points but Sock is assured to become the highest ranked American on the tour ahead of Steve Johnson despite the loss. Simon was a finalist two years ago in Shanghai where he lost to Roger Federer in two tie-break sets.
Following is the line up with my pick mentioned first:-
Novak Djokovic (1) (59-6) v. Roberto Bautista Agut (15) (47-19); Djokovic leads 5-0
Andy Murray (2) (63-9) v. Gilles Simon(-) (29-22); Murray leads 14-2.
Bautista Agut who won tournaments in Auckland and Sofia this year can leapfrog from 15th to 10th in the race to London if he were to claim his maiden Masters 1000 title on Sunday. Djokovic has won both their meetings in 2016 including a four set win at the Roland Garros where the Serb went on to complete the career slam and the non calendar grand slam. With Djokovic still not at his best, the Spaniard can score an upset on Saturday. Simon though will have little left in the tank against the rampant Murray. Expect a dream final on Sunday.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]