The Chennai Open 2017 final is a study in contrasts. On one hand, is Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, the world number 14 and winner of four ATP titles. On the other, is 20-year-old Russian Daniil Medvedev, who will be playing in his maiden final on the ATP World Tour.
Bautista Agut, who is 28-years-old, is a former finalist at the Chennai Open and is coming into this year’s final on the back of a tremendous 2016 season. He achieved a career-high ranking of 13, with two titles and a famous victory over Novak Djokovic at the Shanghai Masters, where he made his first-ever Masters 1000 final.
Medvedev, who was playing on the Futures and Challengers circuit, had a breakthrough year in 2016. He started the season ranked number 329 in the world, but leapfrogged into the top 100, with a career-high ranking of 98 by the end of 2016. He won his first Challenger title at St Remy in September.
While Medvedev hasn’t experienced the same amount of hype as some of his fellow next-gen batchmates, he has been one of the most consistent players from that generation. In 2016, he notched up 35 wins in Challengers and reached the last eight in eight consecutive tournaments.
Both the finalists also have contrasting styles of play. The 6’0” Bautista Agut doesn’t play like most other players from Spain, and uses comparatively less topspin. He hits the ball flat and relies on his two-handed backhand to control points. He has great hands at the net, and mixes things well with deft volleys and drop shots.
Medvedev, in contrast, is a 6’6” tall, lanky player with an aggressive forehand. His serve is a major weapon, and often gets him out of trouble with 200 kmph aces. The Russian is a string baseliner and can hit some lethal groundstrokes. However, Medvedev isn’t the most comfortable player at the net, and has difficulty getting to balls that stay really low.
The final on Sunday will be their first career meeting. While this is the first time that Medvedev is playing in Chennai, Bautista Agut has a 10-4 win-loss record at the SDAT Stadium. So far, they have only dropped one set each in the tournament. Here’s a look at how both the finalists fared in the tournament so far.
Road to Final:
First round: Bautista Agut, seeded second, got a bye in his first round. Medvedev made a successful debut at this 250 ATP event by drowning fellow next-gen player Thiago Monteiro of Brazil 6-3, 6-3. 22-year-old Monteiro, who was ranked 17 places higher than his Russian opponent, had no answer to Medvedev’s big serves and powerful hitting from the baseline. Medvedev hit eight aces on his way to the second round.
Second round: Bautista Agut started his 2017 campaign with an easy straight-sets win over Brazilian Rogério Dutra Silva. The Spaniard needed just one hour and 15 minutes to dispatch Dutra Silva 6-3, 6-2. In his second round match, Medvedev shocked eight seed Lu Yen-hsun 6-4, 6-3. The upset was a first indication of what the Russian could achieve, breaking the Taiwanese’s serve five times in the match.
Quarter-final: Bautista Agut was up against veteran Mikhail Youzhny in his last-eight clash. Youzhny, the seventh seed, had a comfortable lead of 6-2, 4-1 in the quarter-final and looked on his way into the next round. Bautista Agut fought back valiantly breaking twice to force a decider. In the third set, the Spaniard was once again trailing 1-3 but made another tenacious comeback to eventually win 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Medvedev, in contrast had an easy outing, as he snuffed out Slovakia’s giant-slaying qualifier Jozef Kovalik 6-1, 6-4 and reached his first ever semi-final at the ATP level.
Semi-final: Just like the quarters, both Bautista Agut and Medvedev took completely different paths to the make the final showdown. The Spaniard humbled France’s fifth seed Benoit Paire 6-3, 6-3 in just over an hour. Medvedev, though, was made to toil for his win and was a match point down in the second set against Dudi Sela. The Russian saved the point with a forehand winner, broke back and forced a tie-break. Medvedev rode his powerful serve to prevail into a decider and then went on to win 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2.
What they said:
Bautista Agut said that he loves coming back to Chennai as he has done well here in the past. "It's nice to be in the final here again. I have more experience now (than in 2013). I have been working a lot and improving every year. I will fight in the final until the last point and we'll see how it goes,” he said.
Speaking about his opponent, he said, “Medvedev is a very good server and has good strokes from the baseline. It’s going to be a difficult match against him.”
Medvedev, in his post-match press conference, expressed his happiness at making his first ATP final. “I don’t how to describe this feeling. I am super happy but also exhausted because it was a really tough match. It was humid, and warm. I am going to try my best to now win my first ATP title,” he said.
In his semi-final, Medvedev had briefly asked for a medical timeout but assured that it wasn’t a big worry. “It was a little problem with my shoulder muscle. The physio tried to help me and it was just a minute’s timeout over the changeover. So, I am going to be okay for the final.”
“I am approaching this match just like every match. I will play my game, and hope to dictate points to win,” he concluded.