SHANGHAI — Novak Djokovic lost his temper then his semifinal at the Shanghai Masters to Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday.
The top-ranked Serb struggled to control his errors for the second straight match, spraying groundstrokes and missing routine drop shots. He finished with 29 unforced errors and was a miserable 2-of-9 on break-point chances.
Djokovic couldn’t control his emotions, either: He smashed his racket into bits after losing the first set – later grabbing a towel from a ballgirl to sweep up the pieces himself – and ripped his shirt open in anger during another point.
He also argued repeatedly with the chair umpire Carlos Bernardes over line calls and a time violation he received for changing his ripped shirt. He continued the exchange even after the match, and complained in his post-match news conference.
“(Bernardes) was the star of the show,” he said. “That’s what he wanted to be today.”
Djokovic has talked repeatedly this week about trying to find calm on the court and rediscover his inner joy for the game after a grueling couple of years that has left him mentally exhausted. During his quarterfinal, he even started humming to keep his anger from boiling over.
There were no songs on Saturday. Just frustrations.
“This is one of those days,” Djokovic said. “Things go in an opposite direction than you want them, but again, it’s a lesson. Every day is a lesson.”
It’s been a season full of them for a player not accustomed to struggling: A stunning loss to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon, an early exit at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics to Juan Martin del Potro, a demoralizing defeat in the U.S. Open final to Stan Wawrinka.
There’s also been injuries, yet another unfamiliar issue for the normally healthy Djokovic.
But the Serb doesn’t believe these challenges are insurmountable. Or that they’ll lead to a deeper slide.
“I had to experience sooner or later this,” he said. “I knew I could not go on playing the highest level for so many years all the time, but it’s good to experience this so I can hopefully get better in the period to come.”
Bautista Agut won his first match against Djokovic in six chances, and improved to 6-30 against top-10 opponents.
He’ll face the winner of the second semifinal between second-seeded Andy Murray and Gilles Simon.