Bautista Agut Leads Trio Of Spaniards In The Austrian Alps

Roberto Bautista Agut (photo: Brigitte Urban)

KITZBÜHEL/WASHINGTON, July 27, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Third seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, who is the highest-seeded player at the Generali Open in Kitzbühel following the earlier withdrawals of top seeds Casper Ruud and Matteo Berrettini, has led an armada of Spaniards into the quarterfinal round in the Austrian Alps.

On Wednesday, as the round of 16 yielded eight quarterfinalists in this ATP 250 clay-court event, the 20th-ranked Bautista Agut became one of three Spanish players to advance. The 34-year-old from Castellón de la Plana eliminated 145th-ranked Austrian wild card Jurij Rodionov, 6-1, 6-4, in 79 minutes on Centre Court. Bautista gave a professional performance that was solid and steady. He won match point with an overhead winner from near the net.

Earlier, Bautista Agut was joined by No. 5 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas and No 7 seed Pedro Martinez. The only Spaniard not to advance past the second round was Pablo Andujar, who lost to Austrian wild card Filip Misolic, 6-4, 6-0.

The 52nd-ranked Ramos-Vinolas, a semifinalist at Gstaad last week, defeated No. 109 Juan Pablo Varillas of Peru, 6-3, 6-4, in an hour and 34 minutes on Court Kuechenmeister. Ramos-Vinolas saved all three break points he faced and outpointed Varillas 68-54.

Next, Ramos-Vinolas will play Martinez, who was solid in beating No. 73 Federico Coria of Argentina, 6-4, 6-3, in one hour and 25 minutes to begin the day on Centre Court. Martinez broke his opponent six times in 12 tries and won half of his return points against the Argentine. He outpointed Coria 55-48.

Meanwhile, Bautista Agut avoided a third straight second-round loss after a first-round bye with his win over the 23-year-old Rodionov, one of four Austrians to begin the second round. The Spaniard had gone down quickly in Bastad (losing to Dominic Thiem) and Gstaad (losing to Varillas) in his two previous tournaments.

Bautista Agut won 76 percent (22 of 29) of his first-serve points and backed it with a solid 85 percent (17 of 20) success in winning second-serve points. He saved the only break point he faced from Rodionov and outpointed him 64-42.

“I knew it was not going to be easy. After not playing well the past two weeks, I think I played a solid game, a very good match,” Bautista Agut said during his on-court interview. “[Jurij] has a lot of good weapons and I’m glad I could win the match in two sets.

“Whether [the fans] are with me or against me, it’s nice to play in front of a full crowd in such a fun atmosphere. I hope I can play a lot of matches here this year.”

Next, Bautista Agut will play No. 68 Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic, who recovered against No. 8 seed João Sousa of Portugal to win, 7-6 (6), 1-6, 6-3, in two hours and 24 minutes on Court Kuechenmeister.

Thiem goes the distance, finds a way to beat Ofner

Although it was assured that an Austrian would win, Wednesday afternoon’s final Centre Court match between Austria’s favorite son, Dominic Thiem, and qualifier Sebastian Ofner was in doubt through the entirety of the one hour and 57 minutes that it took to determine the final outcome.

In the end, it was the 199th-ranked Thiem, playing in Kitzbühel on a protected ranking due to his lengthy absence from the ATP Tour after injuring his right wrist last year, who prevailed. Thiem defeated the 235th-ranked qualifier, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, to advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals.

As the match neared its conclusion, Thiem put the pressure on Ofner and broke for the fifth time to go ahead 5-3 in the final set. With a chance to serve out the victory, Ofner proved to be a difficult opponent and got a couple of break points at 15-40 and 30-40. Thiem saved both of them, the first on a running cross-court forehand volley winner, the second after Ofner hit a fourth-shot forehand wide. Soon, Thiem earned a match point after Ofner sailed a forehand long. Although the 26-year-old Austrian from Bruck an der Mur fought it off and won a 16-shot rally with a backhand volley winner, Thiem, a native of Wiener Neustadt, won on his second match-point opportunity.

Thiem finished with three aces and won 67 percent of his first-serve points. He converted five of nine break points – including three of five in the third set – and outpointed Ofner 86-74.

Looking back, Thiem wasn’t able to play his best tennis – it got ugly at times – but he found a way to win by managing his tennis and his emotions. On this day, the 28-year-old Thiem’s experience rewarded him and advanced him to his third consecutive quarterfinal in three weeks – Bastad, Gstaad and Kitzbühel. In those three weeks, Thiem is 7-2 after going winless earlier in 2022.

“It was an unbelievable atmosphere once again, a great afternoon to play tennis,” Thiem said during his on-court interview. “I’m really happy to get the win. It was very different conditions than yesterday. It’s not easy to make the change against Offy. We know each other very well, practicing together a lot of times. It was a great, great fight at the end and I’m happy to be through.”

Next, Thiem will will play No. 140 Yannick Hanfmann of Germany, who took out 315th-ranked lucky loser Ivan Gakhov of Russia. The 25-year-old Moscow native who lives and trains in Barcelona, was a late replacement for No. 6 seed Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands, who withdrew earlier Wednesday due to illness.

Misolic reaches last eight in his Kitzbühel debut

Austrian wild card Filip Misolic came alive on Centre Court for the second time in three days and reached the Generali Open quarterfinals in his Kitzbühel debut.

The 205th-ranked Misolic defeated No. 98 Pablo Andujar of Spain, 6-4, 6-0, by taking advantage of 14 double faults by the 36-year-old Spanish veteran. He also converted six of 14 break-point opportunities. The 20-year-old Misolic closed out the win with his third service ace.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Misolic said in describing his victory over Andujar. “I’m happy that I won. I gave my best and won with the help of the crowd. I’m happy to play in the quarterfinals.”

Next, Misolic will play No. 80 Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, who upset No. 4 seed Aslan Karatsev of Russia, 7-5, 6-3, in 90 minutes. Lajovic saved the only break point he faced and outpointed Karatsev 69-58 to advance.

Around the Generali Open

No. 1 doubles seeds Tim Puetz of Germany and Michael Venus received a walkover win against Tallon Griekspoor and Bart Stevens, both of the Netherlands. Griekspoor pulled out due to illness, which advanced Puetz and Venus into the semifinal round. Next, Puetz and Venus will face No. 3 seeds Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies, both of Germany, who won their quarterfinal match over Hugo Nys of Monaco and Jan Zielinski of Poland, 6-4, 6-1.

On Thursday, the other two doubles quarterfinal matches will take place involving four unseeded teams. Pedro Martinez of Spain and Lorenzo Sonego of Italy will face Austrian wild cards Jurij Rodionov and Neil Oberleitner, while Frenchmen Fabian Reboul and Sadio Doumbia will play Robin Haase of the Netherlands and Philipp Oswald of Austria.

Wednesday’s Generali Open results

Thursday’s Generali Open order of play

By the numbers

Dominic Thiem, who won the 2019 Generali Open title, improved to 14-7 lifetime in Kitzbühel with his three-set victory over Sebastian Ofner Wednesday. Thiem’s live ranking has improved from No. 199 to No. 167 with his two victories this week.

“Quotable …”

“I don’t think there was too much difference in shotmaking. I think there were some small details in the score. In the third set he was up a break twice and I was able to make the rebreak straight away twice again. If he holds his serve and he goes away in the third set, probably it’s going to be a different outcome. But these were the key moments when twice I was able to straight [away] rebreak.”

Dominic Thiem of Austria, during his on-court interview in describing his second-round win over fellow Austrian Sebastian Ofner.