By Florian Heer
(July 12, 2014) STUTTGART – The remaining four players battled it out on Saturday for a place in Sunday’s final at the Mercedes Cup. Leading the way was top seed and defending champion Fabio Fognini, who has reached his fourth semi-final of the season, without dropping a set. The world No. 15 went up against Roberto Bautista-Agut for the sixth time with the Italian leading 4-1 before Saturday’s encounter. The Spaniard’s only victory came on hard court at the Australian Open.
Both players also met last year at the same stage in Stuttgart and the world No. 23 seemed to be highly motivated right from the beginning of the match. In an entertaining clay court affair, Bautista-Agut was solid in his groundstrokes as he tried to use opportunities coming to the net. The 26-year-old Spaniard saved all five break points he faced and capitalized on both of his two having on his own. After 73 minutes Bautista-Agut served out winning 6-3, 6-4 and advanced into his second final of the season.
“Today I played much better than last year. I had to show my best tennis to beat Fabio in perfect conditions on clay. I hit the ball hard, served well and also made him run. That’s what I wanted and I also played better in the important moments, which is always the key to win a match,” Bautista-Agut analysed.
“I don’t think too much in terms of rankings. I remain focused on the daily business. Tomorrow I’ll play my first final on clay and I’ll try to play the same level as today to win the title,” the Spaniard, who will crack the top-20 on Monday, told the media.
“I have much more confidence this year compared to 2013 and I’m healthy. These two things are important for the improvement I made throughout the year so far,” Bautista added.
“For the tournament here in Stuttgart I wish all the best for next year. I also feel comfortable on grass and so, for sure, I’ll try to come back in 2014, although I haven’t tested the courts yet,” the Spaniard, who won his maiden title on the ATP World Tour in s’Hertogenbosch, said about the surface change.
In the second match Lukas Rosol met Mikhail Youzhny for the first time. The second-seeded Russian seemed to find his form by reaching his first semi-final of the season through victories over two Argentines Leonardo Mayer and Federico Delbonis. Rosol had taken out two Germans, Alexander Zverev and Philipp Kohlschreiber, before beating Feliciano López on Friday and was also the dominant player. The 28-year-old Czech was impressive with a great return game, good serves and a couple of hard hitting baseline shots to seal victory in 88 minutes winning 7-6, 6-2.
“So far it has been the perfect tournament for me here. The great crowd in Stuttgart is helping me to play my best tennis here. Winning the tie-breaks is also important, which has worked out for me and I hope I can keep it up until tomorrow,” said Rosol, who is looking forward to his second final of the season after losing in Bucharest to Grigor Dimitrov.
“Roberto will be the favourite tomorrow. I need to play really good tennis to win a couple of games against him. If I’m able to continue my game, it will be an interesting match on Sunday. The most important thing will be to stay focused on the court. Sometimes you have a slow start and it is difficult to find your rhythm like today when I was 1-4 down in the opening set. Then you get it, you’re really in the match and you feel more comfortable on the court,” Rosol added and said that he is not thinking about winning the car yet. He simply wants to stay concentrated and hopes for another victory on clay after lifting the ATP Challenger trophy in Prague in June.
Sunday’s matches will take place without participation of a local player. In the doubles final Guillermo Garcia-López and Philipp Oswald will take on Mateusz Kowalczyk and Artem Sitak. The Austrian-Spanish-combination defeated Peter Gojowczyk and Dominik Meffert in the Champions tie-break, whereas the Polish-New Zealand tandem took out Michael Berrer and Alexander Zverev in straight sets.
Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Future Circuit! Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.