Roberto Bautista Agut overcame top seed Dominic Thiem 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-4 on Thursday to keep alive his hopes of a second Qatar ExxonMobil Open crown.
The 2019 champion took his groundstrokes down the line and charged the net at 2-2 in the decider to claim the crucial break of the match. Bautista Agut’s victory extended his impressive ATP Head2Head record against the World No. 4 to 4-1.
“It was a very tough fight. Dominic is a very good player,” Bautista Agut said in an on-court interview. “He gives 120 per cent. I tried to give more than 120 today. I had to play very good to beat him and it was one of the greatest players I had in front of me today.”
Bautista Agut now owns an 8-1 record at the ATP 250. The Spaniard will next face red-hot Russian Andrey Rublev for a place in the championship match. Rublev moved into the semi-finals without hitting a ball after Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics withdrew due to a lower back injury.
“I am just enjoying the win today. It was really good,” said Bautista Agut. “I had to play unbelievable tennis. I had to fight very hard to run a lot and now I just want to take a breath, relax, enjoy the win. Tomorrow morning, with my coach, I will start to prepare for the next match.”
“He’s always such a difficult opponent to play as he fights from the first to the last point,” said Thiem. “[He] doesn’t give you anything for free. He also feels super good here in Doha. Obviously, two years ago he won the title.
“In general, [I am] pretty satisfied with my performance. I was fighting from beginning to the end. Of course, game-wise here and there I made some bad mistakes, some expensive mistakes as well. But I think it was a little step towards the right direction and [I need to] try to build on this in Dubai next week.”
Taylor Fritz didn’t give up on Centre Court, even after Denis Shapovalov won 24 straight service points in the first set, to reach the semi-finals. Fourth seed Shapovalov’s early dominance turned after costly errors early in the second set, as Fritz fought hard for a 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 victory in two hours and five minutes.
The 23-year-old American recorded his first win in four ATP Head2Head meetings against Shapovalov, easing memories of the Canadian’s comeback from two-sets-to-love down in the 2020 US Open third round. Fritz, who saved three match points against David Goffin on Wednesday, will next face Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia on Friday. Basilashvili saved a match point to end Roger Federer’s comeback event with a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory.
“It was mentally a huge victory,” said Fritz. “Not serving out at 5-4, 40/15, really took a lot out of me, particularly after our last match at the US Open last year. I didn’t want to lose again, and so I pushed harder. I’ve had a lot of court time and close wins, coming through under pressure, so I want to keep it going.”
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Shapovalov was in total control in the 37-minute opener, but he lost his first point on serve at 0-1 in the second set when a routine forehand approach flicked up off the net and landed wide. Two further errors cost the World No. 11 and Fritz found his way back.
“I don’t think I have ever gone a set without winning a point on someone’s serve,” said Fritz. “That was kind of crazy. He was just playing really, really well in the first set. I think I just had to play myself into the match. I felt like I was holding [serve] pretty easily. He played a pretty insane game when he broke me in the first set, so I have to just give credit. He played a very good game to break me… I was lucky when the chance came, I was able to take it.”
Fritz took a 3-0 lead, then broke in the first game of the decider when Shapovalov mis-hit a forehand approach long. The American saved two break points at 4-3 in the third set, but paid the price for not converting two match points on serve at 5-4. Importantly, Fritz didn’t panic and took away Shapovalov’s energy by winning eight of the last 10 points.
When asked what he was thinking after he failed to convert two match points, Fritz said, “The last time after it happened, I was so defeated by it because I knew I choked. This time, I didn’t make first serves on either one of the two points. He hit a pretty nice shot at 40/15. Then I made some dumb errors to get broken… I blew it, but I just told myself, ‘I can’t let this happen again. I need to be positive and try to come back and break him.’ I broke him. When I went to serve it out, I told myself, ‘I need to play this game very aggressively’.”