By John Delong, Winston-Salem Open
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Roberto Bautista Agut decided to come to the Winston-Salem Open at the last minute as a wild card entry, and he’s glad he did.
Bautista Agut, the tournament’s second seed, rallied to beat Aljaz Bedene 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in his second-round match on Tuesday afternoon on Stadium Court.
The win moved the 28-year-old Spaniard into third round action on Wednesday against 14th-seeded Marcos Baghdatis. It also got him a bit more revenge after Bedene had beat him twice in 2015.
Bautista Agut had received a first-round bye, while Bedene had opened with a three-set victory over James McGee on Monday.
“I lost against Bedene two times and I knew it was a difficult match today,” Bautista Agut said. “He had already played his first match yesterday and it was my first match, so it was even tougher because of that. But I think I was really serious on the court and I thought I did a great job.”
Bautista Agut decided to take a wild card entry into the WSO last Thursday, after losing to Nicolas Mahut in the first round at Cincinnati.
He blames that loss on scheduling, as he had to fly directly to Cincinnati after reaching the quarterfinals at the Rio Olympics.
“I disagree with the schedule this summer,” Bautista Agut said. “It was very tough for the players to play last week in Cincinnati immediately after coming from Rio. But it is what it is and we couldn’t change it. Because of that, maybe I couldn’t play as well as I wanted, and that’s why I came here to play Winston-Salem.”
Bautista Agut is currently ranked No. 17, slightly off his career high of No. 14. He started off the year with a bang, winning titles in Sofia and Auckland in the first two months of the season and reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open.
Against Bedene, he was broken in the first game of the first set and never could get the break back in losing the first set. But he regrouped in the second set with a break to go up 4-2, and then he dominated the third set with breaks in the first and last games.
He was pleased with his ability to battle through adversity.
“I wanted to keep going,” Bautista Agut said. “I wanted to keep fighting. I wanted to leave everything on the court. I was still focused on the match after losing the first set and I was happy with the way I came back.”
Given the craziness of this summer, he was pleased to be through to the third round.
“The first match is always the more difficult match of the week, because every week we play in different conditions, different balls,” he said. “Especially this summer it has been unbelievable. In Rio, we played with Australian Open balls. Last week it was Penn. This week it is Wilson US Open balls. Every week is different. It is not good for the players to play every week with different balls.”
In other second-round afternoon matches, Diego Schwartzman stunned seventh-seeded Gilles Simon 7-6 (2), 6-1; 16th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 7-5; and wildcard Bjorn Fratangelo beat 11th-seeded Paolo Lorenzi 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
For Simon, it was his second straight early exit at the WSO. He was the tournament’s top seed last year and was beaten in the second round by Bedene.
“It was a tough match,” Simon said. “I didn’t play the way I wanted to. I played OK in the first set and then in the second set my game just disappeared. I maybe had a chance to win the first set, but in the end he was the best player on the court, that’s for sure.”
Simon said he was particularly disappointed because he had arrived in Winston-Salem on Thursday and had put in several good days of practice.
“Last year, the context was a bit different, but this year it’s really disappointing because I came here early to practice and I tried hard in the practice and I was fixing my game and it was in good shape most every day. So it’s really disappointing to play the way I did today, knowing that I was about to do much better in practice.”