Bautista Agut wins Chennai Open

The Spaniard defeated Russia's Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the final on Sunday.

R. Ragu

Roberto Bautista Agut (left), the Chennai Open winner, and Daniil Medvedev, the runner-up, with their trophies.   -  R. Ragu

Roberto Bautista Agut was crowned the 2017 Chennai Open champion after a comprehensive 6-3, 6-4 victory over first-time finalist Daniil Medvedev on Sunday. It is the fifth ATP World Tour title for the World No. 14 Spaniard.

In his fifth consecutive appearance at the Chennai Open, Bautista Agut frustrated his opponents with long games, a trait that most Spanish tennis players seem to possess. He played aggressive when the situation presented itself, but he was much more adept at keeping the ball in play and forcing his opponents to make the first mistake.

The ploy worked in the final on Sunday as well. The 2013 finalist nullified the big serves of the Russian with great returns and forced Medvedev to make errors on his backhands, the very stroke that had served the 20-year-old well all throughout the tournament.

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Bautista Agut simply played every point better. His backhands were sailing in flatly against the 6’6’’ tall Russian who found himself committing way too many unforced errors. His backhand shots often failed to go above the net and against a persistent World No. 14 who was also playing solid attacking tennis, it proved costly.

The Russian admitted that it contributed to his loss. “His strokes were coming in a little flat and since I also have a flat backhand, I couldn’t hit it above the net. May be that’s why I lost.”

Medvedev conceded a break in a similar fashion in the first set. Serving at 1-2, his groundstrokes caught the net four times during the game and a double fault didn’t help his cause. Staring at a triple breakpoint, he saved two, but then hit the net to give the Spaniard the lead.

Medevev played a lot better in the second set, his backhands started sailing in and the momentum looked like shifting just a wee bit. But he had to call for a medical timeout with the second set going on serve at 4-4. “I had sore muscles in the right leg, I felt like I had pulled a muscle,” he later explained.

He returned to play and didn’t seem to be in any discomfort, but he couldn’t win a game after that. Agut hit a backhand crosscourt winner against Medvedev, who was stationed at the net, to break in the first opportunity. He closed out the match point without much fuss.

The Russian World No. 99, who is likely to rise to the 60s in the rankings, had twice the number of aces (8) against Agut.

He played some good overhead smashes to earn some points as well, but the fast improving Russian didn’t have a single breakpoint opportunity through the match. The Spaniard didn’t have an imposing serve, but he was consistent with his first serves and that proved effective against the erring Russian who made four double faults.

A composed Bautista Agut succinctly summed up his performance. “I think I played a great tournament. The first match was a little difficult. I played amazing tennis and the quarterfinal win after being 6-2, 4-1 down gave me confidence. I played very aggressively. It’s great,” he said.

Medvedev, who wasn’t too disappointed with the loss, agreed. “I am very happy playing the final. I didn’t play badly, he just played better. He was better with every stroke and played consistently. He was the better player today,” he said.

For all the consistent tennis that he played in Chennai over this week, Agut set himself a modest target for the year 2017. “It’s very difficult in the top 10. Right now, I would like to make the quarterfinals in all the Grand Slams,” he said.

Explaining the reason behind the modest target, he said: “I have to start winning against Top 10 players in crucial matches. Once that starts happening, I will switch the gear up,” the Spaniard said.

Agut had encouraging words for the runner-up Medvedev. “He has a great future. He has good serves, good strokes from the baseline and he is just 20. He is already a good player and he can only improve,” the Spaniard said.

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