Novak Djokovic has admitted to feeling exhausted after losing in the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters on Saturday. The Serbian world number one was upset 6-4 6-4 by 15th seed Roberto Bautista of Spain.
Djokovic has suffered a steep loss of form following a brilliant run in which he captured six of his 12 grand slam titles, including four in a row up to June’s French Open.
Since Roland Garros, he has won in Toronto and reached the U.S. Open final but slipped to early exits at Wimbledon and the Olympics.
Up and down
"In terms of results it was up and down, but there are definitely things that I need to regain from the emotional, mental point of view," Djokovic said after falling to Bautista for the first time in six meetings.
"So I guess I'm focusing on that more. It's a transition somewhere in between, maybe just exhausted by the amount of matches I have had in the last 15 to 20 months.
"Maybe all in all that's the cause of me feeling this way. But I had to experience this sooner or later. I knew I could not go on playing at the highest level for so many years all the time."
Djokovic, who skipped his China Open title defence last week with an elbow problem, arrived in Shanghai insisting that mental equilibrium was now his focus, rather than trophies.
But he departed with neither after a bad-tempered defeat to Bautista in which he smashed his racquet, tore his shirt and lashed out at the chair umpire.
Djokovic has admitted he's dealing with "private issues" in recent months and in Shanghai, he hinted that his coaching tie-up with Boris Becker may be at an end.
"I guess this is one of those days. You know, things go in an opposite direction than you want them, but again, it's a lesson," the 29-year-old said.
"Every day is a lesson. You learn from these kind of days and matches more than when you're winning."
Bautista, meanwhile, will be going for a first World Tour Masters crown on Sunday against Andy Murray. The second-seeded Briton brushed Gilles Simon of France aside 6-4 6-3 to reach his 20th Masters final.
"I can't describe how I feel. I'm so happy. I played really good tennis this week, and I hope to play the same tennis tomorrow in the final," Bautista said.
"It's not easy to play Novak when he's playing really good. I'm so happy I could beat him. The first time I remember I played him I thought he was from another planet, and now I think I'm closer to him."
A victory for Murray on Sunday would give the Scot his third title in Shanghai. It would also close the gap to Djokovic in the race to end the year at the top of the rankings to less than 1,000 points with three tournaments remaining.