Preview: Lucas Pouille, Roberto Bautista Agut Play For Dubai Crown
A preview of the men's final at the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
A busy week at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships will close with a championship match between No. 2 seed Lucas Pouille of France and No. 3 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain. The victor will claim his second ATP World Tour singles title of 2018. Additionally, a win for Pouille is projected to put him into the Top 10 of the ATP World Tour singles rankings for the first time in his career.
Pouille has now reached his second final in as many weeks, and, indeed, he was only a couple of games away from coming into Dubai with two titles on the season already in hand. However, Pouille fell to Karen Khachanov in the Marseille final last week, with the Russian prevailing 7-5 in the final set. The arduous final did not end well for the Frenchman, but he still came to Dubai undeterred. This week, after eliminating former Top 10 player Ernests Gulbis in the first round, Pouille exacted revenge on Khachanov in the second round with a three-set win over the Russian. A come-from- behind win over No. 8 seed Yuichi Sugita in the quarter-finals was followed by a two-hour and 19-minute semi-final win over Filip Krajinovic. Pouille defeated Krajinovic for the second time in two weeks, this time in a final-set tiebreak. The Frenchman served 16 of his tournament-leading 44 aces to nudge him over the line in the semi-final, which was the second-longest match of the event. Pouille is now into his third final of the year, looking for his sixth career title, and his second of 2018 after triumphing at Montpellier. Moreover, if Pouille does win the title, he is projected to make his Top 10 debut, one week after turning 24 years old.
Bautista Agut is also attempting to clinch a second ATP World Tour singles title of the year, after winning at Auckland in January. Between Auckland and Dubai, however, Bautista Agut hit a rough patch, and went winless in three matches. After 20 straight Grand Slam events where he won at least one match, the Spaniard fell in the first round of the Australian Open to compatriot Fernando Verdasco in straight sets. Bautista Agut then dropped a Davis Cup match against Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie despite leading two sets to none, and then fell in his opening match at Marseille to Julien Benneteau. But the World No. 23 is back in fine form this week, surviving the longest match of the tournament against Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the second round (2 hours and 21 minutes), and using that momentum to claim straight-set wins over Borna Coric in the quarter-finals and Malek Jaziri in the semi-finals. Bautista Agut is now going for the eighth ATP World Tour singles title of his career, hoping to bookend that minor losing streak with a pair of trophies.
Defending champions Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau have returned to the Dubai final, aiming for their 17th doubles title as a pairing. They will square off against the wild card team of Jamie Cerretani and Leander Paes, who are making their ATP World Tour debut as a team. Although Rojer and Tecau have achieved tremendous results as partners over the last five years, Cerretani and Paes have also already served notice that they can succeed together, backing up their ATP Challenger Tour title at Newport Beach, CA, USA from last month with their first Tour-level final in only their second event as a duo. 44-year- old Paes has also proven that he can win this event, having claimed the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title 20 years ago, in 1998 (with Mahesh Bhupathi), and 15 years ago, in 2003 (with David Rikl).
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.