ATP Shanghai: Novak Djokovic survives scare to reach semifinals

Down a set and a break, the world number one had to battle back against an inspired Mischa Zverev to reach the semifinals in Shanghai.

ATP Shanghai: Novak Djokovic survives scare to reach semifinals
Novak Djokovic hits a forehand during his second round match. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Novak Djokovic
2 1
Mischa Zverev

After cruising through his first two matches, world number one Novak Djokovic found himself faced with a surprisingly tough test in the quarterfinals of the Shanghai Rolex Masters. in the form of qualifier Mischa Zverev. Djokovic trailed by a set and a break and was three points away from defeat twice in the second set before rallying to reach the semifinals with a 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 victory.

Zverev threw everything at Djokovic through the first two sets, but seemed to run out of gas in the third as the top seed to an early lead and never looked back, claiming victory in two hours and 23 minutes.

Zverev comes out swinging

Despite his massive underdog status, it was Zverev who took control of the match early. He had to weather an early storm, saving a pair of break points in his first service game before turning the tables on Djokovic in the very next game, racing ahead 0-40 and converting his second break point to grab the early lead at 2-1. He needed to save another break point in the following game to consolidate the break.

Mischa Zverev hits a low forehand during his third round match. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Mischa Zverev hits a low forehand during his third round match. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Once Zverev had the 3-1 lead, both men settled into service rhythms. The German would only drop one more point on serve in the set, while Djokovic still had to battle through a deuce in the seventh game. With Djokovic serving to stay in the set at 3-5, Zverev made another move. He clawed a game back to deuce and help a break point, which was also a set point, at 40-AD. Djokovic would save it, but after missing an advantage of his own, the Serbian found himself down set point again and this time he could not save it as Zverev broke to take the opening set.

Back-and-forth second falls to Djokovic

The defending champion seemed to be in trouble early in the second set as, after a strong hold to start the set, Zverev broke him to 15 to take a 2-0 lead in the set. In the following game, Djokovic finally seemed to find his footing on return, breaking to love and backing it up with a hold to love to level the set at 2-2. In the seventh game, Zverev was under pressure again. After battling back from 15-40 down and saving a third break point at 40-AD, the German finally cracked, surrendering the fourth break point of the game to give Djokovic the lead.

Djokovic chases down a forehand during his third round match. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Djokovic chases down a forehand during his third round match. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Finally with the lead, the top seed could not hold it as Zverev returned the favour from earlier in the set, responding with a break of his own to level the set right back at 4-4. The set continued on serve for the remaining four games and the two men found themselves in a tiebreak. Djokovic took command of the breaker immediately, racing ahead 4-0. Zverev would reclaim one of the minibreaks, but it wasn’t enough as the top seed hung on to take the tiebreak 7-4 and send the match to a decider.

Djokovic hangs on after quick start

The momentum finally in his corner, Djokovic took full advantage to start the final set. After a tricky hold to start the set, the Serbian broke to love in his first return game and backed it up with a hold to love, winning 12 of the first 14 points on his way to a 3-0 lead to start the decider. That would prove to be enough as Zverev missed his lone chance to reclaim the break, missing a break point in the fifth game. Djokovic did not need another break of his own as he hung on to his serve for the remainder of the set, serving out the match in a tight ninth game.

By the numbers

It was not Djokovic’s best serving day, as he had six double faults to four aces, only won 50 percent of his second serve points, and was broken four times. This was one of the rare matches where the Serbian was broken more times than he succeeded in breaking serve, as he managed only three breaks of his own. He also spent more time on his serve, playing 15 more points on his serve than Zverev. However, Djokovic did what he does best in the match, dominating an opponent’s second serve, limiting Zverev to 40 percent of those points.

In the semifinals, he will play Roberto Bautista Agut