Bautista Agut Lifts Spain Into ATP Cup Final

Roberto Bautista Agut (photo: ATP Tour video)

SYDNEY/WASHINGTON, January 7, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Roberto Bautista Agut will not soon forget his thrilling match victory over Hubert Hurkacz Friday night that clinched Spain’s berth in the ATP Cup championship. There was both great joy and relief on his face that told the story of this exciting semifinal tie.

The 33-year-old, 19th-ranked Spaniard defeated the World No. 9 Hurkacz, 7-6 (6), 2-6, 7-6 (5), that electrified the crowd inside Ken Rosewall Arena. His clutch win gave Spain an insurmountable 2-0 advantage and boosted his country into its second ATP Cup final in three years.

Bautista Agut, who two years ago went undefeated (6-0) at No. 2 singles for the Spanish during his country’s run to the final against Serbia, has been lights-out flawless this week in Sydney. He has won all four of his matches as the No. 1 singles anchor for Team Spain.

“It’s a match that I will always remember,” Bautista Agut said during an on-court interview with Hall of Famer Jim Courier, shortly after his triumph over Hurkacz. “I think both of us could get the win today. He also really deserved a lot of good things. But this is our game, this is tennis.

“Today, I was the one who got the win. I think I also deserved it. I did a lot of good things on the court.”

While Hurkacz, who fired 24 aces to go with 64 winners, played a gutsy brand of tennis – at times displaying brilliant shot making that enabled him to save five match points – and fought to the very end, Bautista Agut remained relentless. By the end of the two-hour and 44-minute battle that was dead-even on points at 108 each, it was Bautista Agut and his Spanish teammates who were celebrating the thrill of victory, while Hurkacz and the rest of Team Poland felt the agony of defeat on their shoulders.

Although, Poland would gain some solace by winning the dead doubles rubber when Szymon Walkow and Jan Zielinski defeated Spain’s Pedro Martinez and Albert Ramos Vinolas, 4-6, 6-3, 10-6, it was the results of the two singles rubbers that decided the tie’s outcome.

“Sometimes, you get the win on the first [match] point,” Bautista Agut admitted during his on-court interview. “He played two or three lines in a row, but sometimes you stay focused like today, you keep working and finally you lose the tie-break. But today, I kept working and I got the win.”

Finally, on the sixth match point, Bautista Agut beat Hurkacz, who was 6-0 in ATP Cup singles play entering the final and had helped his team to its best finish in the three-year history of the event.

“I played really aggressive at the end of the match. Maybe, a bit more aggressive in the tie-break than on the match points, but I ended the tie-break with a good passing shot,” Bautista Agut said. “He was playing unbelievable volleys, so I’m really happy about the win of today.”

Earlier, World No. 20 Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain delivered his country a 1-0 lead after defeating Zielinski, 6-2, 6-1, in 54 minutes at No. 2 singles. The Polish doubles specialist was rushed into duty after 117th-ranked Kamil Majchrzak, who went 3-0 for Poland during the group stage, was forced out of the competition and into health and safety protocols due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Zielinski had never played a tour-level singles match before Friday, which Carreño Busta capitalized upon. He hit 24 winners, did not face any break points and outpointed Zielinski 53-30. His victory moved him to 4-0 at this year’s ATP Cup.

“We are lucky to have Roberto,” Carreño Busta said during his team’s press conference. “Today, he made an amazing match. My match was good, I made my job. I tried to be focused all the time.”

Bautista Agut added: “I’m happy because Pablo also played well. We are very happy to be in the final and will the victory [over Poland] tonight. We have been in the final [in 2020] and we will fight for the trophy on Sunday.”

On Sunday, Spain will play the winner of Saturday’s semifinal between Russia and Canada.

Looking back on Friday

Looking ahead to Saturday

By the numbers

Roberto Bautista Agut has proven his dominance in his first tournament of the season over the past six years. Since the start of 2017, he has gone 20-3 – including 11-2 at the ATP Cup – in his first event of the year.

“Quotable …”

“Obviously, the match of Hubert [Hurkacz] and [Roberto] Bautista Agut was such a great level. I think everybody enjoyed it. Today, we came up one or two points short, but that’s tennis. We have to congratulate the Spanish team.”

Marcin Matkowski, Team Poland captain, reflecting on the tie-clinching No. 1 singles match during his team’s post-match press conference.