Chennai, January 10 (IANS)
Qualifier and giant-killer Aljaz Bedene from Slovenia saved four match points in the final set to beat third-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, the World No.15, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8), on way to the final of the $450,000 ATP Aircel Chennai Open here on Saturday.
The 25-year old Bedene, ranked 156, who had upset two seeded players - World No.14 Feliciano Lopez (No.2) and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (5) - in the earlier rounds, after coming through three qualifying matches, displayed remarkable resilience to win his second consecutive three-setter in two hours, 42 minutes.
The 2013 runner-up Bautista Agut had his chances, but just could not shake off a persistent Bedene who thus became the first qualifier to reach the Chennai Open final where he awaits the winner of the second semi-final between defending champion and World No.4 Stan Wawrinka and fourth seed David Goffin.
Incidentally, Bedene, then ranked 86, was a semi-finalist here in 2013 when he defeated Wawrinka in the quarter-finals before losing to eventual winner Janko Tipsarevic.
The match saw Agut and Bedene break each other’s serve throughout the match
In a match that witnessed as many as 10 service breaks and high quality strokes, fortunes fluctuated with 26-year old Bautista Agut blowing two match-points at 6-5 in the third set and two more in the tie-break before Bedene pulled through.
Bedene did well to match the Spaniard shot for shot early on in the first set that saw as many as five breaks of serve, three of them by Bautista Agut who later won a crucial 24-shot rally in the seventh game before going on to take the set 6-3.
In the second set, Bedene, who is seeking a British citizenship, started well with a break of serve in the fourth game, but Bautista Agut, voted Most Improved Player in 2014, broke back in the fifth only to drop serve in the sixth as the Slovenian took a 4-2 lead and then held for 5-2.
Bedene forced the decider by converting his fourth set point in a tight ninth game after being down 0-30 on serve.
In the final set, both traded a break of serve apiece, before Bedene saved two match-points in the 10th game, aided by three excellent serves and an unforced error by the Spaniard.
Bautista Agut climbed from 3-5 in the tie-break to 6-5 and again led 8-7, but on both occasions, Bedene forced errors from the Spaniard to eventually clinch the issue on his second match-point.