Read & Watch: Against Delpo, Bautista Agut Wins Third Consecutive Final
Roberto Bautista Agut entered Saturday's ASB Classic final leading the tournament in service breaks. And when the championship was on the line against second seed Juan Martin del Potro, the Spaniard came through once more to capture his second Auckland crown (also 2016), battling past Del Potro 6-1, 4-6, 7-5.
The fifth-seeded Spaniard broke Del Potro in the 11th game of the third set, taking advantage of a second serve and targetting the Argentine's backhand on consecutive shots. A game later, Bautista Agut erased a break point and served out the match to win his seventh ATP World Tour title and his first of the new season.
“It's been a fantastic week for me. I gave everything I have on the court this week,” said Bautista Agut, who battled for more than two hours against Del Potro and nearly three hours during his semi-final against Robin Haase.
“It was an unbelievable match today. I've been fighting a lot on the court... I played two amazing games at the [end] of the match.”
The 29-year-old Bautista Agut has now won his past three ATP World Tour finals, dating back to 2017 Chennai (d. Medvedev) and 2017 Winston-Salem Open (d. Dzumhur). The Spaniard, though, might be at his best in Auckland. He improved to 13-2 in the New Zealand city, and his service breaks were the key to his second title run at the ASB Classic.
Bautista Agut broke his opponents a tournament-high 19 times, converting 58 per cent of his opportunities (19/33). He had even better luck against Del Potro (4/5), despite the second seed's strong play coming into the final.
The 2009 champion Del Potro hadn't dropped a set before Saturday but, in the first set, Bautista Agut dominated, breaking Del Potro three times to gain a one-set lead after only 31 minutes.
“I started the match very well. I knew it was going to be important, the beginning of the match. I wanted to play very aggressive. I wanted to be ready,” Bautista Agut said. “I think I played very aggressive... I tried to have Juan Martin moving around the court.”
Del Potro, however, returned to his regular tennis proceedings in the second set, using his serve to set up his forehand well, and he broke Bautista Agut in the 10th game to force a decider.
The third set was as the score indicates: dead even. At 15/40, 5-5, Del Potro erased a break point with an ace but Bautista Agut saw a second serve on the next point, and took advantage before serving out the match.
“I think my game improved a little bit. I could play even better but Roberto did well at the end of the match,” Del Potro said. “Roberto is a great champion so congratulations to him.
“It's a good start of the year for me. I didn't expect to reach a final in my first tournament of the year but I played well,” Del Potro said.
He will receive 150 ATP Rankings points and $47,105 in prize money. Del Potro will also return to the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time since 4 August 2014. He falls to 20-10 in tour-level finals.
Bautista Agut will receive 250 ATP Rankings points and $89,435 in prize money and is projected to remain at No. 21 in the ATP Rankings.