Statistically speaking, clay is Roberto Bautista Agut’s worst surface. It’s not the Spanish way, but neither is hitting a forehand with an Eastern grip. It makes attacking high balls extremely difficult, unless you have Roger Federer’s talent or Juan Martin del Potro’s height. The more Eastern the grip, the lower you prefer to strike the ball. There’s a reason grass is RBA’s most successful surface.
Even still, the Spaniard owns a 74-50 on the dirt, picking up a pair of wins in Hamburg this week. Bautista Agut is always a tough out no matter the surface, much like his Friday quarterfinal opponent Andrey Rublev, who can hit through any court—no matter the speed.
After losing their first two encounters in straight sets, Rublev avenged defeat to Bautista Agut, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (0), in Madrid at the Davis Cup Finals last year.
It’s imperative that Rublev protect his line after ripping his crosscourt forehand. Few players change direction with the forehand better than RBA, who has hurt Rublev in the past with his running forehand down the line. If Rublev can rip his two-hander back crosscourt, and not resort to a slice, he should have the edge given his firepower.
Both players prefer their forehand, which means they will look for the same pattern, their inside-out forehands to the opponent’s backhand. The ability to take the backhand down the line and reverse that pattern will be crucial.
While Rublev is far more aggressive, they share a similar game plan. control the point with their forehand, and when appropriate, change direction with their backhand in order to get more forehands.
According to the oddsmakers, Rublev is a slight (-148) favorite, which means this match is virtually a toss-up. In the end, Rublev’s ability to manufacture pace should be rewarded by the slow surface.
The Pick: Andrey Rublev