The semi-finals of the ExxonMobil Open provided fans with some excellent tennis and – on paper – a surprising result when Andrey Rublev, the defending champion as wells as being the inform player, was handed a straight sets defeat by Roberto Bautista Agut, a former champion.
It was very difficult to play tennis today, with the windy conditions... but I put a lot of pressure on his second serve and played really good tennis. Robert Bautista Agut
The Spaniard, seeded five and world ranked 13, required 73-minutes to ease past the Russian, ranked eight and seeded three, 6-3 6-3 with a performance that continually frustrated Rublev.
Bautista Agut, the 2019 Qatar champion, had already ousted Dominic Thiem, the number one seed, in the quarters and maintained that level of performance in the semis to reach his 18th ATP final in pursuit of his 10th title.
In Rublev’s defence, he arrived in the last four without striking a ball in anger following a first-round bye and two consecutive walkovers from injured opponents, Richard Gasquet and Marton Fucsovics.
“It was very difficult to play tennis today, with the windy conditions… but I put a lot of pressure on his second serve and played really good tennis.
“Yesterday I played a very long match, very tough one,” Bautista Agut in reference to his two-and-a-half hour win over the US Open champion in the previous round.
“[But] I felt fresh, with a lot of power on the court and I knew he could be fresh, but he hadn’t played a match.
“I’m very happy, as I’ve said, this court and this tournament is one of my favourites,” Bautista Agut continued.
‘It feels very special to play on this court, I’ve played one of the best matches of my career here in Qatar, and hopefully tomorrow it’s one more.
“I feel very happy, and I hope to play a good final tomorrow.”
Roberto Bautista Agut will face Nikoloz Basilashvili in Saturday’s final, the Georgian having followed up his quarter-final victory over Roger Federer, by dispatching American Taylor Fritz 7-6(3) 6-1 in just 76-minutes.
“Yesterday’s match already give me a lot of confidence,” Basilashvili, ranked 42, said of his victory over the 20-time Grand Slam title winner Federer.
“Today I was much more relaxed than I was (in) I don’t know… eight tournaments.”
“To reach the final means a lot,” he continued having arrived for the Doha tournament on the back of a five-match losing streak.
“I am playing well and I am relaxed. It’s great to play in front of a crowd and a nice atmosphere.”
Looking ahead to the final he described Bautista Agut as a “very good baseline player”, concluding: “He doesn’t have many errors, so it’s going to be tough match for me.”
Any disappointment Rublev might have felt following his defeat in the singles, was assuaged when he partnered compatriot Aslan Karatsev to the men’s doubles title later in the evening.
The pair beat New Zealand’s Marcus Daniell and Austria’s Philipp Oswald 7-5 6-4 for what was Rublev’s second doubles title.