By Tucker Verdi

Miami Gardens, FL — Imagine losing the first set of a tennis match 6-1. Now, imagine losing that set 6-1 to the World No. 1 who has 15 Grand Slam, 33 Masters 1000, and 73 overall ATP titles — including six at the Miami Open.

It’s hard to imagine, considering all that, a path to victory.

Roberto Bautista Agut carved a path, however, overcoming an absolute dud in the opening set to stun No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3. The two-and-a-half hour match saw the 22nd seed advance to his first Miami Open quarterfinal after having lost twice before in the fourth round.

“As you see, the first set I couldn’t play at the same level,” Bautista Agut said after the match. “The key of the match was at the beginning of the second set, no? If I wanted to win the match, I had to be very close in the score. Otherwise Novak, when he gets an advantage, he plays really aggressive.”

Djokovic seemed to be en route to a straight-sets win at 5-all in the second when, after a short rain delay, he held a break point against the Spaniard. Bautista Agut dismissed it with a slice that Djokovic fired into the net, going on to hold and take a 6-5 lead. He would break the Serbian for the second time to claim it 7-5, sending the match to a decider.

“I gave him a little room to step in and he did,” Djokovic told the press, a sullen look on his face. “A little hope that he can come back, and he made a great comeback. But fault is on me, for sure. I had way too many opportunities that I wasted.”

In the third, Djokovic’s errors piled up as Bautista Agut raised his level — continually pushing the World No. 1 back by inching towards the baseline each game and hitting hit shots deep. Bautista Agut challenged the big-hitting Djokovic to rally after rally from the baseline, something few players are willing to do.

This win follows Bautista Agut’s earlier upset of Djokovic in Doha, where he won another three-set comeback, 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4. Asked if that victory provided him any extra confidence going into this match, Bautista Agut admitted it played a part.

“It helped me at the end of the match, no? I had confidence to play at a really high level at the end of the match, and I could close the match well with my serve.”

Bautista Agut will play defending champion John Isner in the quarterfinals tomorrow.