The Davis Cup Finals champions Spain has moved a victory away from the inaugural ATP Cup trophy, with Roberto Bautista Agut beating Dusan Lajovic 7-5, 6-1 in an hour and 37 minutes. The title clash between Spain and Serbia will bring the world's leading players Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to the court in the second rubber and the pressure should be on Novak who has to score the victory to keep Serbia alive ahead of the potential deciding doubles rubber.
Bautista Agut has done everything right in Perth and Sydney in the last ten days, scoring six straight-sets wins over lower-ranked opponents and allowing Nadal to compete with less stress in tough top-ranked encounters he had to endure.
Including Challengers, this was the sixth victory for Bautista Agut over Lajovic in as many matches, serving at 75% and getting broken twice from five chances offered to the Serb, once when he was already miles in front. Dusan delivered a fantastic performance against Karen Khachanov yesterday but couldn't repeat that today, giving away more than half of the return points and suffering five breaks from ten opportunities offered to the top-10 rival.
Unable to find his strokes and move the opponent from the comfort zone, Lajovic stayed behind from the closing moments of the opening set, barely winning a point on the second serve and losing the baseline exchanges with the competitor who loves to play down under in January.
Settling into the desired rhythm, Bautista Agut grabbed a break already in the second game, staying in front until Lajovic pulled it back at 1-3 when the Spaniard sent a volley long. Fending off break chances in the next couple of games, Dusan stayed on the positive side of the scoreboard until game 12 when Roberto broke at 15 to secure the opener after an hour and gain a massive boost ahead of the second set.
A service winner secured the opening game of the second set for the Spaniard who clinched a break in the second game thanks to a forehand error from the Serb who was falling deeper and deeper in those moments. Roberto held at love in game three to extend the lead, delivering another break that sent him further ahead before Dusan pulled one break back, reducing the deficit to 4-1.
That was all he could do, though, spraying a forehand mistake to suffer the fourth straight break and allowing Bautista Agut to seal the deal with an ace in game seven and propel Spain in front ahead of that long-expected clash between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.