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Experience is the name of the game in Halle on Thursday.

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Roberto Bautista Agut (@AustralianOpen - Twitter)

By Cheryl Jones

 

The second match of the day at the Noventi Open featured a couple of old timers. Frenchman, Richard Gasquet is thirty-three and Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut is thirty-one. They’ve both been around since the early part of the twenty-first century. Lest that seem like a short time ago, it is now 2019 and soon we will be slipping into the roaring twenties. (Yes, I know that was a twentieth century tag, but maybe there will be a whole new set of Mousquetaires, i.e. Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste. Then again, maybe not.)

The match today was over in just two minutes more than an hour. Bautista Agut came out on top 6-1, 6-4. It was a match that seemed to hover over the baseline with Gasquet moving toward the net more often than Bautista Agut, but not much. There was a good deal of hit and miss going on from both players, with lengthy rallies tending to be non-existent. The grass seems much more amenable to the tennis this year. The bounces seemed slow but steady – even if the serving speed of this match was toned down a bit from today’s earlier match between two Italians – Matteo Berrettini and Andreas Seppi. (Berrettini sent many serves over the net at speeds, well over 125 miles per hour [200 kilometers per hour]. He won in three sets, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2).

Gasquet became a professional tennis player in 2002. That’s a lot of days to spend on the court – more than 6,200 actually. (If years are more easily visualized, then that’s seventeen.) Over all those years, his winnings have averaged about a million American dollars for each of them. (That amount may seem like a good deal of money for batting a little ball across a net, but, there are coaches, trainers, physical therapists, and all the other folks who work to keep a player in the best shape possible that need to be paid for. Then one must add to that, the airfare, the transportation, the hotel rooms and all the other sundries that can total more than one can calculate in a day or two.)

To say that Gasquet’s career is pedestrian is a misnomer. He began playing as a youngster. At nine, he was touted as the “next” future champion in February 1996 on the cover of French Tennis Magazine. He was nine. In 2007 he reached his highest ranking of 7. He has slipped to number 54 today, which is his lowest since 2010. He’s always been a competitor. He has spent all of his adult life on the tennis court, always expecting a win. Seventeen years is a long time to stay in top form. It is apparent he still loves tennis, and amazingly his one-handed backhand is a sight to behold. It flows like a feather in the wind.

He could be thinking of moving over to allow the younger players a space in the rankings, or like many other competitors today, he may feel there’s another win waiting for him. This one could be just around the corner at Wimbledon. His hopes for the future are likely simple and to the point – London may be calling.

Bautista Agut has been a professional player since 2005. As of today, he has been ranked in the top 30 of the ATP rankings for 267 consecutive weeks. That’s a smidge over five years. He began playing tennis at five. He scampers about the court like a youngster, to this day. Actually, he enjoys horseback riding and owns seven horses, which I assume he leaves at home in Spain.

Earlier this year, in the first round of the Australian Open, he managed a win over Andy Murray in a trying five set match. He then moved on to the second round and defeated John Millman in yet another five setter. In the third round, he mowed Karen Khachanov in straight sets. He continued his winning ways by defeating Marin Cilic (last year’s Gerry Weber Open champ). But, then he met the up and coming Greek player, Stefanos Tsitsipas who was on a real high after defeating Roger Federer. Stefanos showed him the door. He then re-entered the top 20 and now he stands at 20 today.

With all that historic momentum stored in his memory banks, he might just have a chance at defeating nine time champ, at the Noventi Open, Roger Federer whom he will face in his next match here in Halle. Federer defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a nail biter – 7-6, 4-6, 7-5. This is Federer’s charmed tournament, and Bautista Agut will need all the luck and skill he can conjure to manage a win in the last match on Friday.

 

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Fabio Fognini beats Guido Pella in straight sets to reach the fourth round in Melbourne

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Fabio Fognini beat Guido Pella 7-6 (7-0) 6-2 6-3 to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open in Melbourne. The Italian star converted five of his six break points to close out the match after 2 hours and nine minutes.

 

Fognini saved two break points in the first set with a forehand and a backhand and held his serve. The Italian star did not convert a break point in a long seventh game. Both players went on serve to set up a tie-break. Fognini did not drop a single point to cruise through to a 7-0 win.

In the second set Fognini earned a crucial break in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. He held his serve on the second deuce after saving a break point. The 2019 Monte-Carlo champion sealed the second set with another break with a forehand return winner.

Fognini earned a break lead in the fourth game of the decisive set. Pella broke straight back in the fifth game. Both traded breaks again in the sixth and seventh games. Fognini broke for the third time and converted his second match point with a serve up the T.

He is also the 12th player to come back from two sets down at all four Grand Slam tournaments.

With his five-set victories over Reilly Opelka and Jordan Thompson in the first two matches Fognini made history on Wednesday when the “Come-back king” became the first player to win back-to-back Australian Open matches in final set tie-breaks.

“I am so happy to be in the fourth round again in Australia. Now it’s time to recover. I played a really solid game against a really tough opponent. I am happy with the performance”, said Fognini.

Fognini set up a fourth round match against 2018 Australian Open quarter finalist Tennys Sandgren, who beat Sam Querrey 6-4 6-4 6-4 after 1 hour and 52 minutes. Sandgren fended off nine break points and converted just 2 of his 14 break point chances. Two years ago Sandgen beat Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem en route to reaching his first quarter final at a Grand Slam event.

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Marin Cilic prevails over Roberto Bautista Agut in five-set thriller in Melbourne

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Marin Cilic overcame Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 6-0 5-7 6-3 after 4 hours and 10 minutes to score his first top 10 win since the 2018 US Open, when he beat David Goffin.

 

Cilic fought back from losing the first set at the tie-break, but he bounced back in the second set by breaking serve in the ninth game, when Bautista Agut made a forehand error. Cilic held on his serve to win the second set 6-4 to draw level to 1-1.

Cilic cruised through to a bagel win in the third set. The Croatian player got an early break in the fourth set to open up a 3-1 lead. Bautista Agut broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Cilic did not convert a break point chance at 5-5. Bautista Agut earned the break at 6-5 to force the match to the fifth set.

Cilic broke serve in the opening game of the fifth set with a forehand winner, but he did not convert a break point at 4-2. He broke for the seventh time in the match in Bautista Agut’s next service game to clinch a thrilling win, as Bautista Agut fired a backhand into the net.

Cilic took a re-match against the Spanish player, who won their previous head-to-head clash at the 2019 Australian Open in five sets.

“I had an incredible patch. It was a surreal level. Every ball I was hitting was going in. It was coming off my raquet incredibly well. I knew Roberto would always fight and he pushed me all the way in the fourth set”, said Cilic.

 

 

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Karen Khachanov edges Mikael Ymer in marathon match in Melbourne

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Karen Khachanov battled past Mikael Ymer 6-2 2-6 6-4 3-6 7-6 (10-8) in a marathon match after 4 hours and 14 minutes.

 

Ymer broke serve twice in the second and fourth games of the fourth set to open up a 4-1 lead. Khachanov broke back in the seventh game, but Ymer broke for the third time to take the fourth set 6-3.

Khachanov broke serve in the sixth game to take a 4-2, but he was broken back in the next game.

Khachanov was not able to serve out the match at 5-3 in the fifth set before trailing 6-8 in the decisive match tie-break. Khachanov came back by winning four consecutive points to clinch a thrilling win.

Australia’s Alexei Popyrin beat Spain’s Jaume Munar 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 after 2 hours and 4 minutes setting up a third round match against Danil Medvedev. Popyrin broke twice in each of the first and third sets and saved all four break point chances.

Taylor Fritz came back from two sets down to beat Kevin Anderson 4-6 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 6-2. Anderson was leading by two sets and 4-2 in the third set, but Fritz broke back before winning the third set at the tie-break. Fritz cruised through the fourth and fifth sets. Fritz will face Dominic Thiem in the third round.

“That was huge for me. He played a really tough five setter just the other day and then obviously coming back. Going back to back five setters is going to be tougher for him than usual. I felt fresh, so I just told myself that I have to keep running”,said Fritz.

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