AUCKLAND: Two-time champion Roberto Bautista Agut was knocked out of the ASB Classic in the first round Tuesday, beaten 6-4, 6-3 by fellow Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena.
Bautista Agut won the Auckland title in 2016, beating John Isner and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in early matches, and again in 2018 when he beat Juan Martin del Potro in the final.
He missed a substantial part of the 2023 season when he was injured in a horse-riding incident in July. He returned in October and reached a final at Valencia in November and the quarterfinals in Hong Kong last week.
Bautista Agut still appeared a little rusty at the start of his match Tuesday against his friend and training partner. He dropped serve in the opening game and again to trail 4-1, appearing to be a little lethargic and lacking touch.
But he rallied when he held serve in the seventh game that went to deuce nine times, saving six break points. Carballes Baena crashed into unoccupied courtside seating as he ran to chase down a wide overhead shot from Bautista Agut late in that game.
He was stuck awkwardly for some time, doubled over a low barrier. Bautista Agut and the chair umpire raced to his assistance and he was able to resume after a short break.
Bautista Agut held serve, then broke Carballes Baena to get back into the set but Carballes Baena served out the set in the next game.
Bautista Agut broke in the second game of the second set but Carballes Baena broke back and then took a 3-2 lead. He faced heavy pressure in his next service game, losing four consecutive points after leading 40-0. He recovered and took the game and from then on had little trouble clinching the match in 1 hour, 43 minutes.
He lost 6-4, 6-2 to in-form Austrian Sebastian Ofner, who reached the semifinals in Hong Kong last week.
Arthur Fils, who had a breakout season last year on the ATP Tour, continued his good run in 2024 with a winning start. The 19-year-old Frenchman downed his countryman Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-4 as the sixth seed made his debut in this event this week. Fils powered 23 winners, including nine aces as he wrapped up a 69-minute triumph against the 2023 champion. IANS