Doha, Qatar: Bautista Agut came up with another fighting display, this time against Tomas Berdych, to win the Qatar ExxonMobil Open.
The battling Spaniard had sent world No.1 Novak Djokovic packing in the semifinals on Friday and on Saturday at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex he silenced the guns of big-serving Czech giant to win 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
It was Bautista Agut’s ninth Tour title and the World No.24 would be heading to the Australian Open with plenty of confidence.
“It was a fantastic win,” said Bautista Agut. “It wasn’t easy, especially after yesterday’s emotions on the court.”
Berdych, looking for his first title since his triumph at Shenzhen in 2016, has only himself to blame for the defeat as he gave himself plenty of opportunities only to miss them all.
But the 33-year-old was happy with the way he has performed during the week after being out with a back injury for the last six months.
“I am happy that I could manage to go all the way. But Roberto was too good in the final today. You know I am happy with the week. I like to come to Doha, I like the fans I like the players and I want to thank Qatar ExxonMobil for the hospitality,” said Berdych.
While Berdych got his serve going right away, Bautista Agut found his under severe pressure in the first three service games. However, the 30-year-old had Berdych on the backfoot in the seventh and a deep return to the former world No.4’s backhand followed by a cross-court winner helped him get the crucial break and a 4-3 lead.
The Spaniard had Berdych in all sorts of trouble in the ninth game as well and even had two set points. Though Berdych held on, Bautista Agut was soon serving for the set and closed it down when a Berdych backhand sailed long.
Berdych came up with a strong reply in the second set and broke his opponent in the fourth game to go 3-1 up and held his own serve to tighten his grip on the set. He finished the set with aplomb, with an unstoppable cross-court forehand.
The former world No.4 was taking the balls early and did not miss any opportunity to go into the net trying to break his opponent’s rhythm with his volleying.
But Berdych’s serve let him down all of a sudden and a double fault gave Bautista Agut a break point in the fourth game of the third set. Another unforced error, a backhand into the net, gave him a 3-1 lead and a chance to tighten the screw on the match.
Though Berdych tried to come back in the next game, where a superb drop shot provided him with an opening and a backhand down the line gave him hope, Bautista Agut stood firm to hold his.
Soon he finished it in grand style, serving the match to love and sealing it with a thundering forehand winner.
Qatar Tennis Federation President Nasser Al Khelaifi said he was happy that the tournament was a huge success.
“I am very happy and it’s an honour to have HH the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and HH the Father Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. It’s an honour to have them both in the final, and it makes our tournament a huge success,” said Al Khelaifi.
“And also the crowd for the tournament – even for the quarterfinal, semifinal and final – was very good. The level of tennis was really high so we are very pleased and happy with the organization. So I would like to thank everybody including ExxonMobil for sponsoring and their support,” he added.