Roberto Bautista Agut may not be the flashiest player on the ATP Tour. In fact, his consistency renders him almost forgettable at times. That could change in 2017 however, as the Spaniard has adjusted his goals to focus more on deep Grand Slams runs.
As if proof was needed of Agut’s consistency, he has reached at least the second round in all sixteen of his last Grand Slam’s. On top of that he has progressed to the fourth round six times in three years. Despite this, he is yet to notch up a Grand Slam quarter-final appearance.
“One of my goals is to reach the quarter-final of a Grand Slam”.
It would perhaps be a surprise if the #13 ranked player was not able to achieve one this year. Last year he had his first major tournament breakthrough when he reached the final of the Shanghai Masters. On the way he defeated Novak Djokovic 6-4 6-4 in the semi-final – his first victory over a world #1.
Now though, the Spaniard is looking to transfer his hard court success in Shanghai onto the blue courts of Melbourne.
“One of my goals is to reach the quarter-final of a Grand Slam,” Roberto Bautista Agut told the media. “I working a lot on that and have been trying to improve my game.”
His early season form does seem to indicate improvements. Brushing aside rising star Daniil Medvedev 6-3 6-4 in the final, Bautista Agut last week sealed the Aircel Chennai Open to earn his first ATP title of the season. It may not have been the most taxing opposition in the form of Rogerio Dutra Silva, Mikhail Youzhny and Benoit Paire, but his performances suggest he is carrying no rust from the off-season.
“I think I played a great tournament,” he said after the final in India. “The first match was a little difficult. I played amazing tennis and the quarter-final win after being 6-2 4-1 down gave me confidence. I played very aggressively. I am happy with the start to the year, to win in the first week.”
Roberto Bautista-Agut’s Australian Open Chances
The 28-year-old begins his Australian Open campaign against Guido Pella. The Spaniard and Argentinian have never met before but given Roberto Bautista Agut’s first round proficiency you would expect him to come through that. Yoshihito Nishioka or a qualifier in the second round are unlikely to pose him much of a test either.
Experienced compatriot David Ferrer is seeded to meet Bautista Agut in the third round and could provide his first notable challenge. Ferrer has a 2-0 head-to-head record over his Spanish counterpart but they have not met for four years. The pendulum has swung in that time also, and with Ferrer in the twlight of his career, Bautista Agut would be disappointed not to progress.
The fourth round is, historically, where he comes unstuck and a potential meeting with Milos Raonic will do little to allay fears of another defeat. Boasting a healthy 4-0 head-to-head advantage, the Canadian would be the unquestionable favourite. When you have to face players such as Raonic in the fourth round, it is easy to see how he has never made the quarter-finals.
Does Roberto Bautista Agut have the game to challenge the top ten?
When asked about top ten aspirations, Roberto Bautista Agut responded, “It’s difficult to break into the top-10. Two years ago, it was a tough for me to get a lot of points against the top-10 players. Last year, I played better against them and got to a good level. I have to start winning against them in crucial matches.”
To reach the quarter-finals of Grand Slam’s he is going to need to defeat the Milos Raonic’s of this world or make it into the top eight ranked players. How likely is it that Bautista Agut can climb higher in the rankings?
The reality is that it will be extremely tough for him. His game is virtually the definition of ‘steady yet unspectacular’. The technical foundations of deft movement and dependable groundstrokes combine to form a consistent style. Yet he is hindered by the lack of a dangerous weapon which makes it unlikely to see him break the top ten and stay there. This challenge is doubled by the quality of the players around him in the rankings; Roger Federer, Nick Kyrgios, David Goffin and Grigor Dimitrov to name a few.
The ability is there for Roberto Bautista Agut to make a handful of Grand Slam quarter-final appearances before he retires. Whether Melbourne will be the first tick on his scorecard though, awaits to be seen.