At the Net: Bautista Agut continues to make strides

Philadelphia, PA ( – Spain has cranked out its share of
tennis stars over the years, most notably the great Rafael Nadal, so it should
come as no surprise that the proud nation has yet another one on the rise in
Roberto Bautista Agut.

The late-blooming 26-year-old has quietly climbed his way up the rankings, as
he currently rests at No. 15 in the world after opening 2014 at No. 64. He was
a career-high 14th in the world just last week.

Bautista Agut achieved a few milestones last year by recording his first
Top-10 win, reaching his first-ever ATP final (Chennai, India) and breaking
into the Top 50, as those accomplishments provided just a glimpse of the
success that was to come for him this season.

RBA got everyone’s attention at this year’s Australian Open, where he made it
all the way to the round of 16 before losing to fellow young star Grigor
Dimitrov. His big victory in Melbourne came when he came from behind to
outlast then world No. 5/former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in
five sets in the second round, a victory that would springboard the Castellon
de la Plana native to his best season to date.

Another Top-5 victory came in March when he tackled then No. 5/former
Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych in the second round at the Indian Wells
Masters event. He also beat a then world No. 6 Berdych in India last season.

The capable Spaniard has established himself as a contender on all surfaces.
He captured his maiden ATP title on grass in Den Bosch, The Netherlands, back
in June, triumphed on his transition to red clay just a few weeks later
in Stuttgart, and reached an indoor hardcourt final in Moscow earlier this
month (October).

At 6-feet tall and 168 pounds, Bautista Agut is certainly not an imposing
figure, but he’s learned his way around the court where he’s always looking to
unleash one of his high-quality forehands.

He also put in a great showing by advancing to the semifinals at the Madrid
Masters, where he was stopped only by his amazing fellow countryman Nadal on
home soil, and landed in the fourth round at the U.S. Open, where his luck
ultimately ran out when he encountered the great Roger Federer.

“Bati” finished the year with an impressive 45 match wins — 19 more than his
previous career-high — and climbed 50 spots from his ’13 year-end finish
after reaching at least the semifinals at five tournaments.

Needless to say, he’s been nominated for at ATP’s Most Improved Player of the
Year award.

“It’s an honor to be nominated for the Most Improved Player of the Year,”
Bautista Agut said. “It’s been my best year. I’ve been playing well all
season. I’ve been playing well on all surfaces and I’m looking forward to
keeping the same work at the same level for the next years.”

On the stats front, Bautista Agut ranked inside the top 10 this year in the
all-important points won returning 2nd serve (9th), break points converted
(6th) and 1st serve percentage (3rd), and ranked 11th in both return games won
and points won returning 1st serve.

He currently gives Spain four of the Top-15 players in the world, joining the
No. 3 former top-ranked Nadal, No. 6 David Ferrer and No. 14 Feliciano Lopez.
And keep your eye on another Spanish riser, 23-year-old world No. 50 Pablo
Carreno Busta, who looks like a Top-20 guy to me.

I don’t think Bati’s a Top-5 type, but a trip into the Top 10 looks like a