Roberto Bautista Agut, tipped by many as a dark horse in this year’s French Open, reached the third round at Roland Garros for the first time with a 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over home favourite Benoit Paire.
The flat-hitting No27 seed, who impressed by making the semis in Madrid earlier this month, gave a calm and collected performance against the talented but often erratic Paire to advance.
The Spaniard is seeded for the first time in a major, and following his win over Juan Martin del Potro at this year’s Australian Open, his good results this season and elevated ranking, is Bautista Agut feeling extra pressure this fortnight?
“I try to focus on me, not to think too much and play match by match and that’s what I’m trying,” tells me.
“Yes I have expectations of myself. I feel well to play good and I want to win as many matches as I can.”
The pair traded breaks early on before Bautista Agut started putting more and more pressure on his French opponent’s serve.
Paire was rushing the net, and he was successful more times than not. He relied on his serve several times to save break points (5/7 in the opening set).
But Bautista Agut’s discipline and composure were always going to prove more valuable in the end, the Spaniard getting three straight set points on a long forehand from Paire.
And he needed only one as one more trip from Paire to the net saw the French world No61 send a backhanded volley wide to give Bautista Agut a one-set lead.
Just like the first set, Paire broke in the first game of the second but this time, the 25-year-old consolidated the break to go 2-0 up.
He dug deep to save two break points in the fourth game but double-faulted two games later to give Bautista Agut another break opportunity. A well-executed volley got Paire out of trouble though.
Bautista Agut got the break though in the eighth game to level the set at 4-4 but was broken right back by Paire.
But the Frenchman inexcusably double-faulted, then struck a poor drop shot that landed wide to get broken again while serving for the set at 5-4.
Bautista Agut eventually triumphed in the tiebreak 7-4 to take a commanding two-set lead and broke in the opening game of the third before cruising to a 5-1 lead.
Paire saved five match points on his own serve in the seventh game to hold for 2-5 but it only delayed the inevitable as Bautista Agut served out the match with an ace to set up a third round with either sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych or Kazakhstan’s Aleksandr Nedovyesov.