MONTPELLIER/WASHINGTON, February 28, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)
David Goffin and Roberto Bautista Agut are no strangers to one another. They’ve shared some history together, both on hard courts and clay, going all the way back to 2013. In their rivalry, Goffin won three of their first five meetings.
On Sunday afternoon in their sixth renewal, before an empty Sud de France Arena in Montpellier, the ATP 250 Open Sud de France final featured the top two seeds in No. 1 Bautista Agut and No. 2 Goffin. It proved to be a matchup that featured plenty of long rallies between the two agile opponents. When it ended after two hours and five minutes, Goffin’s arms went aloft to salute his come-from-behind 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 victory for his fourth career head-to-head triumph over Bautista Agut.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) February 28, 2021
The 30-year-old Goffin, a native of Rocourt, Belgium who turned pro in 2009, was a champion once again. It was his fifth ATP Tour title – the second one indoors – and first since 2017. It was his first final since 2019 at the Western & Southern Open. Bautista, who is 9-8 in ATP Tour finals, was going after his 10th career tour-level trophy.
Through the first two sets, points were even at 60 each. A handful of service breaks were the difference makers between these two battlers. Bautista broke Goffin to go ahead 3-1 in the opening set by taking advantage of some early errors only to be broken back by Goffin as he was trying to serve out the set at 5-3. However, Bautista Agut won the opening set 7-5 with the second break of the Belgian No. 1.
Then, Goffin broke the World No. 13 at love to open the second set as he gained momentum and it held up as he served out the set at 6-4 with a love hold.
In the deciding set, Goffin struck early, again, taking advantage of some costly unforced errors by Bautista Agut in the opening game. Later, he backed up the early break to go ahead 5-2 with an overhead winner that capped a 14-shot back-and-forth rally. Finally, Goffin closed out the title victory with a powerful backhand return that Bautista Agut netted on the return.
What a moment for @David__Goffin!
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) February 28, 2021
The final statistics favored Goffin. He served 13 aces, converted four of seven break-point opportunities and outpointed Bautista Agut 91-82.
During a reflective post-match interview, Goffin gave props to Bautista Agut. He said of the Spaniard: “Of course, he played very well the whole week. He’s a tough opponent, one of the biggest fighters, one of the best players in the world.
“It’s always tough, especially in a final. I had to play my best tennis and I think it was the case. From the end of the first set, I came back at 5-all and I knew he would be there. He played better at the end of the first, then I started to play better in the second. I had to give everything. That was my only chance today.”
Bautista Agut, 32, reached the final after winning a trio of straight-set matches while dropping just 15 games. Meanwhile, Goffin took a more challenging route, in which two of his first three matches went the distance. Sunday’s final would be no different – three sets, plus a happy ending, with his arms aloft. This time, too, there would a confetti celebration and a beautiful trophy for Goffin to lift.
His first ATP Tour title since 2017 🙌
Well deserved, @David__Goffin 👏
— ATP Tour (@atptour) February 28, 2021
“A final is always different,” said Goffin, who became just the third non-French player to win in the 11-year history of the Montpellier tournament, joining Tomas Berdych (2012) and Alexander Zverev (2017). “You have to just go for it. You’ve already had a good week. You just have to give it everything. I wanted to win the trophy. I did it, I raised my level. I’m really happy at the end.
“It’s never easy to win tournaments. This is my fifth and every tournament that I’ve won was very special. I had some opportunities, I’ve had matches [where] I had zero chance to win in the final. Sometimes you take it, sometimes not. I’ve played some finals, but you need to continue, you need to improve your game, you need to fight, and I’m happy that it paid off in the end.”
Kontinen/Roger-Vasselin win doubles title
No. 1 seeds Henri Kontinen of Finland and Edouard Roger-Vasselin from France won their first title of the season and second as a team, needing just 66 minutes to beat unseeded Jonathan Erlich of Israel and Andrey Vasilevski from Belarus, 6-2, 7-5.
At age 43, Erlich was attempting to become the oldest to win an ATP Tour doubles title in the Open Era. Instead, it was Kontinen and Roger-Vasselin who combined for 12 aces and saved seven of seven break points they faced. The winners broke their opponent’s serve three times in seven tries.
— EdouardRogerVasselin (@ERogerVasselin) February 28, 2021
Roger-Vasselin, who is ranked 16th, and Kontinen, currently 32nd, dropped just one set en route to the Montpellier title. They started the season with a first-round loss in the Australian Open earlier this month. Previously, theywon the 2019 Stockholm Open title together. Roger-Vasselin has now won three Open Sud de France doubles titles, each with different partners after lifting the trophy with Nicolas Mahut in 2012 and Ivan Dodig in 2019.
Looking ahead, Kontinen and Roger-Vasselin have the unenviable task of facing top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, both from Columbia, in the first round of the upcoming ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.