Chennai Open: Giant-killer Bedene faces Wawrinka in final

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Chennai: Qualifier Aljaz Bedene saved four match points while grounding the Spanish armada by knocking out World No.15 and third seed, Roberto Bautista Agut 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(8), to reach the final of the $450,000 ATP Aircel Chennai Open here Saturday.

The 25-year old Bedene, ranked 156, who had earlier beaten two other Spaniards in World No.14 Feliciano Lopez, the second seed, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (5), next takes on defending champion Stan Wawrinka who accounted for Belgian David Goffin 7-5, 6-3 in a tame second semi-final.

Bedene, a semi-finalist here in 2013 when he beat Wawrinka in the quarter-finals, thus became the first qualifier to reach the Chennai Open final.

“I thank my team for preparing me so well. It was a tough match and I am happy to reach the final. I had worked hard during the off-season,” said Bedene whose fitness and resilience helped him survive a punishing match.

In a crazily swinging tie that lasted all of two hours, 42 minutes and peppered with 10 service breaks, it was Bedene’s resilience as much as some uncharacteristic errors by Bautista Agut that tilted the balance in the Slovenian’s favour.

Although playing his sixth match in seven days after coming through three qualifying rounds, Bedene never stepped off the pedal and in fact, matched his higher-ranked opponent shot for shot, never hesitating to indulge in long rallies, some of which went over 20 strokes.

The 26-year old Bautista Agut, voted the Most Improved Player in 2014, took the first set on the back of three service breaks, while himself dropping serve twice. Bedene won a tight second set where breaks were traded midway through to force the decider.

In the third set, both players dropped serve once apiece before the Spaniard enjoyed two match-points in the 10th game, but failed to cash in. Bautista Agut paid dearly for the lapses as Bedene saved two more match-points in the tie-break to win the tie.

In sharp contrast, the second semi-final was rather insipid in terms of competitiveness with World No.4 Swiss ace Wawrinka, the reigning Australian Open champion, raising his game to a level that was beyond Goffin’s reach.

The 22nd ranked Belgian did have his moments when he broke the Swiss in the second set, but on the day, Wawrinka, blasting his trademark one-handed backhand winners, was simply unstoppable, finishing the match with an ace.

“I think I played my best match of the week,” said Wawrinka who attributed his 32 unforced errors (as against 22 winners) to him taking chances. “Obviously, when you play aggressively, you tend to make mistakes, but I am happy to come through tonight.” A

The results (semi-finals): 1-Stan Wawrinka (SUI) bt 4-David Goffin (BEL) 7-5, 6-3; Q-Aljaz Bedene (SLO) bt 3-Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(8).

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