Roberto Bautista Agut stopped Novak’s bid for a third Qatar ExxonMobil Open crown on Friday.
The seventh-seeded Spaniard pulled off an upset, recording a 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 semi-final victory over the 2016 and 2017 champion in two hours and 35 minutes.
It was his second win in their nine ATP H2H meetings.
Novak started well, earning a set and a break lead, but Bautista Agut fought back into the contest. The world no.24 had three set points in the second set before tie-break, and another chance at 6-5 in the tie-break. He did not manage to convert any of those, but was eventually successful on fifth attempt, finding a way to close it out.
The Spaniard broke Novak’s serve in the very first game of the deciding third set and never looked back.
Match statistics: aces (9-7), double faults (3-0), 1st serve points won % (67-79), total points won (100-102).
Novak will now head to Melbourne for the Australian Open, where he has been crowned champion six times (2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016).
Last year he suffered a 6-7, 5-7, 6-7 defeat to South Korean Hyeon Chung in Round 4.
The year’s first Grand Slam tournament starts on January 14.