Tennis

Roberto Bautista Agut beats Karen Khachanov in Doha thriller | ATP Tour

Roberto Bautista Agut beats Karen Khachanov in Doha thriller |  ATP Tour

Roberto Bautista Agut showed his fighting skills Friday at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, edging out Karen Khachanov 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 in a thriller in the Doha spotlight.

The Spaniard put in an intense and aggressive performance, beating the Russian in two hours and 26 minutes to reach the ATP 250 final for the second year in a row.

“The atmosphere was amazing,” Bautista Agut said during his on-pitch interview. “I want to give Karen a lot of credit, he was playing amazing. I had to fight really hard to turn things around. It was a really tough game.”

The second seed found his range as the match continued with the key turning point coming in game three of the second set, when Bautista Agut fended off seven break points in a mammoth game to hold. From there, the world No. 16 put his foot down and raised his level deep in the third set, breaking at 5-5 with a powerful smash, before holding to seal his victory.

The 33-year-old, who defeated Andy Murray and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina for just three games loss in his first two matches, now leads Khachanov 6-2 in their ATP Head2Head series.

“He was playing very fast,” added Bautista Agut. “He was playing very solid, he was defending very well and he hit a lot of amazing passing shots. I must have played unbelievably well tonight. I enjoyed tonight so much.

Bautista Agut has a solid Doha pedigree, having won the title in 2019 and reached the final last season. The Spaniard will be aiming to claim his first crown at tour level since triumphing in Doha three years ago when he takes on Nikoloz Basilashivili in a repeat of last year’s league match on Saturday.

Khachanov was aiming to reach his second tour-level final of the season, having qualified for the final at Adelaide International 1 in January.

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Earlier, Basilashvili continued his love affair with the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, advancing to the final for the second straight year with a 6-4, 6-2 win over France’s Arthur Rinderknech.

The Georgian lifted the trophy in Doha last season, beating Roger Federer along the way. Basilashvili will have his chance to triumph again when he appears in court on Saturday after breaking Rinderknech three times to end the world No.61’s run and advance.

“I feel good,” Basilashvili said. “I really like playing in Doha. I can see the ball very well here and physically I feel much better than the previous matches. The final will be a tough match.

Basilashvili, who arrived at the ATP 250 event on a six-game losing streak in 2022, is aiming to win his sixth tour-level title this week.

Rinderknech was trying to reach his second final of the year, having appeared in the Championship match at Adelaide International 2 in January.