By John Delong
After a runner-up finish last year, Roberto Bautista Agut came to this year’s Winston-Salem Open as a man on a mission.
Consider it mission accomplished after Bautista Agut defeated Damir Dzumhur 6-4, 6-4 to win
this year’s WSO crown on Saturday afternoon at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex.
The 29-year- old Spaniard raced to 3-0 leads in each set, then had to regroup both times after
Dzumhur battled back to get back on serve.
It was Bautista Agut’s second ATP World Tour title this year, after he won in Chennai in January,
and his sixth career title.
“I wanted to try to arrive at the title and get the title so it’s been a fantastic week for me and it’s
also a great year for me,” Bautista Agut said. “I am so happy now. I think I had a very good week. I played some very good tennis and it was a tough final. He was playing really smart, he changed the
rhythm, he was playing very tricky, so I’m happy with the way it turned out.”
Bautista Agut was the tournament’s top seed, coming into the tournament ranked No. 15 in the
current ATP World Tour rankings. After a first-round bye, he beat Dusan Lajovic in the second round, then followed with wins over Marcos Baghdatis, Taylor Fritz and Jan-Lennard Struff.
He became the champion in the WSO’s seven-year history to go through the entire tournament
without losing a set.
“I feel good playing here on this court,” said Bautista Agut, who is now 11-2 all-time in Winston-Salem. “I think it’s a great tournament, great preparation for the US Open, and a great opportunity for me to get some points. I feel good now. Now I have to enjoy the title and start to recover and focus for next week at the US Open. Last year I didn’t have much time. I had to play on Monday afternoon. But now I have an extra day.”
By winning the WSO, Bautista Agut is assured of not having to play at the US Open until Tuesday. He’ll face Andreas Seppi in the first round.
Bautista Agut admitted to having butterflies a bit once the title got within his grasp. He was
serving for the match, up 5-3, in the second set, and Dzumhur promptly broke him at love. There wereflashbacks to last year, when he was serving for the match in the second set against Pablo Carreno Busta, before Carreno Busta fought back to win in three sets.
“It’s tough, no?” Bautista Agut said. “I couldn’t manage the nerves. I couldn’t stay calm. I was a
bit nervous after losing my serve both sets. But I was able to come back. I had some memories of last year, I was serving for the match and couldn’t close it out. But I kept my mind and I focused on the return, and I was able to break back.”
Dzumhur was playing in his first career final, and he, too, had butterflies early in falling behind 3-
0 in both sets. But he showed the kind of heart he had displayed all week in battling back. He was
playing his 11 th match in a 12-day span after reaching the final of a Challenger event in the Dominican Republic last week, and if he was tired, it was completely understandable.
“Both sets I started with love-three down, I came back, but it is not easy to come back to win
after love-three,” he said. “It’s tough against any player, and especially against a player like Roberto, who played a great week, didn’t drop a set. The big points, he played so good, especially both sets at 4-all, he played great points, great passing shots. I actually played great points but he played some unbelievable points. The key moments in the match, he played unbelievable. It was a small difference, but it was enough for him to beat me today.”
Dzumhur started the week by beating Denis Istomin, only hours after arriving from the
Dominican Republic. He then beat ninth-seeded Gilles Simon in the second round and followed it up by beating Horacio Zeballos in the third round, 13 th -seeded Hyeon Chung in the quarterfinals, and Kyle Edmund in the semifinals.
“It was the best week for me so far,” Dzumhur said. “I really enjoyed playing in Winston-Salem.
It was an unexpected good week for me and definitely one that I will always remember. Hopefully it is not the last one. Now that I’ve broken the ice to go the finals, I hope I can make even more in the future.”
Dzumhur is expected to rise to No. 56 in next week’s ATP World Tour rankings, which would be a career-best.