Biggest Title Yet! Bautista Agut Wins Dubai
Roberto Bautista Agut arrived in Dubai on a three-match tour-level losing streak, his first of that length since 2016. But after a tremendous week of tennis in which he dropped just one set, the Spaniard leaves with his second title of the season.
Bautista Agut, the third seed, defeated second seed Lucas Pouille 6-3, 6-4 to triumph at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday evening and deny the Frenchman his first appearance in the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings, which the 24-year-old would have earned with a victory.
"I played very good, very aggressively," Bautista Agut said. "I didn't give him all the court, all the control of the game. I played very good tennis tonight."
The World No. 23 captures his eighth ATP World Tour title (8-6 in finals), and his first at the ATP World Tour 500 level. It is the second time Bautista Agut has beaten a Top 20 player in the ATP Rankings in a final, with the other result coming earlier this year when he triumphed at the ASB Classic, defeating Juan Martin del Potro. Bautista Agut claims $565,530 and 500 ATP Rankings points, which will propel him to World No. 16 on Monday.
The 29-year-old is the first Spaniard to capture the trophy since Rafael Nadal in 2006.
"That means a lot, to win this trophy," Bautista Agut said. "I think the past winners [in Dubai] are the best tennis players in the era. That makes me so happy."
It was an impressive performance by Bautista Agut in the final, extending his FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead over Pouille to 3-1. He managed to limit Pouille's ability to hit arguably the most potent shot on the court, his forehand, by utilising great depth and timely changes of direction.
The first break in the match came as Pouille served at 1-2, hitting an untimely double fault long to give the Spaniard the lead. And while Bautista Agut faced his only break point of the set in the next game, he saved it with a beautiful line-clipping backhand down the line to end a 17-shot rally.
It appeared that Pouille, who is now 11-4 on the season, would turn the match around as he found ways to rip more forehands and break for 3-1 in the second set. But Bautista Agut never let his level drop, breaking twice more in the match. And while the Frenchman battled until the end, bringing the final game to 30/30, Bautista Agut struck a forehand winner to end a tantalising 25-shot rally to earn match point, which he clinched when Pouille hit a passing shot into the net.
"He took the break," Bautista Agut said. "But I was mentally strong. I [was able to] come back playing very good tennis."
Pouille, who won the Open Sud de France in February and also reached the final at last week’s Open 13 Provence (l. to Khachanov), claims $277,255 and 300 points. And while he will not break into the Top 10, the top-ranked Frenchman is projected to climb to a career-best No. 12 in the ATP Rankings.
"I think he played some great tennis tonight. Even if I think I had some opportunities, especially in the second set where I got the break, 3-1 up, I couldn't conserve it," Pouille admitted. "I think he was very solid, played some great tennis when he had to."
Did You Know?
Bautista Agut is the first player outside of the Top 10 in the ATP Rankings to triumph in Dubai since Fabrice Santoro in 2002.