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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Bautista Agut looking forward to Djokovic showdown at Mubadala World Tennis Championship: 'It’s going to be great to have Novak on court again'

Spaniard overcomes Russia's Andrey Rublev 7-5, 6-2 in quarter-final at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi

Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut in action against Andrey Rublev of Russia during their quarter-final match at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi. Martin Dokoupil / EPA
Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut in action against Andrey Rublev of Russia during their quarter-final match at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi. Martin Dokoupil / EPA

Roberto Bautista Agut has said he is looking forward to facing Novak Djokovic at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) when the Serbian makes his return to the court after a lengthy absence.

Bautista Agut, 29, booked his place in the semi-finals with a comprehensive 7-5, 6-2 victory over Russia’s Andrey Rublev.

The Spaniard’s reward is a showdown with Djokovic, who as the top seed at the Abu Dhabi tournament received a bye to Friday’s last four.

Djokovic, 30, has not played competitive tennis since retiring during his Wimbledon quarter-final against Tomas Berdych in July as a persistent elbow injury forced him to close down his season.

It makes his first match at the International Tennis Stadium at Zayed Sports City all the more intriguing, and Bautista Agut is pleased to see the former world No 1 returning to action.

“It’s going to be great to have Novak on court again - for everybody, for tennis, for all of us,” the Spanish world No 20 said.

“I’m happy to play against him again. I played some tough matches with him and I always enjoy playing against Novak.”

Djokovic has won six of his seven meetings with Bautista Agut, although the Spaniard was victorious in their second-most recent meeting - a straight sets win at the 2016 Shanghai Masters.

As Djokovic looks to gain match fitness following nearly six months away, Bautista Agut will enter their semi-final tournament-ready after a successful 2017 and recent off-season.

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“I worked a lot on my return and first serve and they worked well today,” Bautista Agut said. “I played very aggressive with my returns and serve. It was a great match.

“I am trying to focus on the things I have to improve. I worked a lot this pre-season and it’s going to be a tough season again. But I’m feeling great with my tennis and with my body.”

Bautista Agut has plenty of reasons to be content, even more now after his performance against Rublev.

Facing one of the most talented young players on the ATP Tour, Bautista Agut made his experience and consistency count, absorbing Rublev’s powerful forehands and allowing mistakes to creep into the Russian’s game.

After breaking for a 3-1 lead, Bautista Agut looked comfortable to serve out the opener, but Rublev responded to level at 5-5. However, a second break in the all-important 12th game ensured Bautista Agut closed out the set.

If the first set was competitive, the second proved far more one-sided, and after Rublev was broken to trail 2-0, it was smooth sailing for Bautista Agut, who broke for the second time in the eighth game to seal the match.

Friday’s schedule kicks off with the fifth place play-off between Rublev and Pablo Carreno Busta, who lost the earlier quarter-final against Kevin Anderson.

The first of the semi-finals will then see Anderson takes on Austrian world No 5 Dominic Thiem - the other top seed to a receive a bye - before Djokovic makes his eagerly anticipated return against Bautista Agut.