Updated1/7/2022 10:25:00 AM
Roberto Bautista Agut clinched Spain’s place in the ATP Cup championship match on Friday evening with a thrilling 7-6(6), 2-6, 7-6(5) victory against Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz. Russia and Canada will meet on Saturday to earn the other spot in the final.
Two years ago, Bautista Agut played a critical role at No. 2 singles (6-0) during his country’s run to the final, which Serbia won. The 33-year-old has again been flawless this edition, winning all four of his matches at No. 1 singles to lead the way for the two-time finalists.
"It's a match that I will always remember. 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," Bautista Agut said. "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."
Hurkacz was desperate to keep his country’s hopes alive and he played tremendous tennis inside Ken Rosewall Arena, saving five match points with gutsy shotmaking. But Bautista Agut was relentless, eventually emerging victorious after a high-quality two hours and 44 minutes.
"Sometimes you get the win on the first [match] point. He played two or three lines in a row, but sometimes you stay focussed like today, you keep working and finally you lose the tie-break," Bautista Agut said. "But today I kept working and I got the win."
The Sydney crowd roared in support of Hurkacz at 4-5 Ad Out when he hit a terrific low backhand volley to save the first match point he faced and there was another eruption later in the game after Bautista Agut missed a difficult forehand passing shot into the net on his second opportunity.
Another missed chance for Bautista Agut two games later added to the tension in the air. Hurkacz continued to fight until the end, saving two more match points in the tie-break. But the Spaniard finally brought the thriller to a close with a curling crosscourt forehand passing shot, which 'Hubi' volleyed into the net.
"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."
Hurkacz, a 2021 Nitto ATP Finals competitor, delivered 24 aces to just one for his opponent. He also showed great courage in rushing the net under pressure. But Bautista Agut was a wall on the biggest points. His elation showed after clinching the victory, with a look of great relief on his face.
The Pole was 6-0 in ATP Cup singles play entering the final. Hurkacz helped his team to its best performance in event history.
Earlier Friday in the No. 2 singles, Pablo Carreno Busta gave his country the advantage with a 6-2, 6-1 win against Jan Zielinski. Kamil Majchrzak went 3-0 for Poland in the group stages, but was forced into isolation due to a positive Covid-19 test and was unable to compete.
Did You Know?
Bautista Agut has been dominant in his first tournament of the season over the past six years. Since the beginning of 2017, the Spaniard has gone 20-3 — including 11-2 at the ATP Cup — in his first event of the year.