Bautista Agut buries hoodoo to bounce Cilic

  • Dan Imhoff

After 25 attempts and nine prior fourth-round defeats, Roberto Bautista Agut is through to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

The Spanish marathon man beat last year’s runner-up Marin Cilic at Australian Open 2019 on Sunday night 6-7(6) 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-4 to break his hoodoo.

It marked the 22nd seed’s third five-set triumph in four matches in Melbourne.

Andy Murray and John Millman took him the distance in his opening two rounds before the 30-year-old knocked out 10th seed Karen Khachanov without conceding a set.

Upon sealing a four-hour victory over sixth seed Cilic, there was a roar of “Vamos” as Bautista Agut flexed his arms and pointed skywards in tribute to his late mother, Ester, who passed away last May.

“It took me a lot of work, a lot of dedication, a lot of patience,” Bautista Agut said.

“I had to work a lot to be in the quarterfinals this year. I played a lot of hours, I played three matches in five sets, so I’m really happy.”

Cilic was already on borrowed time having survived two match points to beat Bautista Agut’s compatriot, Fernando Verdasco, in the third round.

And after storming back to take the match into a deciding set on Sunday, the Croat’s big-match experience looked to have him on the front foot.

Cilic wasn’t without his chances, as break points went begging early in the fifth, but it was the Spaniard who finally landed the critical blow at 4-all.

He broke on his third opportunity, in a near seven-minute game, as he ripped a forehand down the line.

And there were no sign of nerves as he closed in on a long-awaited career first.

Bautista Agut brought up two match points with a crosscourt forehand winner and claimed it when his opponent’s backhand found the net.

Unforced errors
38 Roberto Bautista Agut
73 Marin Cilic

“Now it doesn’t matter,” he said of his three marathon matches. “I’m in the quarterfinals and that’s the most important thing, no?

“I did a great pre-season. I’ve been doing well a lot of years and it was for me an objective to be in the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam.”

Objective achieved, he awaited the winner of six-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer or Greek 14th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

It mattered little to Bautista Agut who he would face next.

“Now I want to enjoy the victory and I want to recover well,” he said. 

“Every match here is a marathon for me, so I want to rest well and stay focused for the next match.”