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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 March 2019

Dubai Tennis: Nikoloz Basilashvili ends Roberto Bautista Agut's title defence in second round

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Ricardas Berankis, and Martin Fucsovics also through to the quarter-finals

Nikoloz Basilashvili followed up his first round win over Karen Khachanov with victory against defending Dubai champion Roberto Bautista Agut. EPA
Nikoloz Basilashvili followed up his first round win over Karen Khachanov with victory against defending Dubai champion Roberto Bautista Agut. EPA

In fairness to Roberto Bautista Agut, expectations of a successful title defence at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships had not been high head of the tournament, apart from perhaps in the Spaniard's own camp.

The 2018 winner had been the first returning champion since Fabrice Santoro in 2003 to return the following year as an unseeded player.

The world No 18's hopes of becoming only the third man, after Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, to win back-to-back titles ended in the second round when he was beaten by Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-7, 6-4, 6-3.

It started well for Bautista Agut, who won the first set tie-break 7-2 after a set in which both players held firm on serve.

But Basilashvili, the world No 19, began to find his range and levelled the match in the second set, before two breaks in the fifth and ninth games of the final set put him through to the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, Richardas Berankis is guaranteed to be back in the world's top 100 after the Lithuanian reached the quarter-finals.

The world No 113 shocked No 8 seed Daniil Medvedev on Tuesday, and he maintained his form with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over American Denis Kudla.

A break in the 10th game of the opening set gave Berankis the advantage, and he swept through the second set in just 28 minutes to set up a match with Gael Monfils on Thursday for a place in the semi-finals.

Elsewhere, Marton Fucsovics is proving to have a much better time in Dubai than his previous appearance in 2017, after his 6-4, 6-2 win over Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff sent him through to the last-eight.

The 27-year-old Hungarian failed to get out of the qualifying rounds on his previous visit two years ago, but this year has reached the quarter-finals having not dropped a set.

A single break was enough for Fucsovics to take the first set, and he charged through the second set after winning the first four games.

Fucsovics, the world No 35, faces a big step up in challenge on Thursday when he faces seven-time champion Federer.

The 20-time major winner, seeded second in Dubai, won their only previous meeting at the 2018 Australian Open in straight sets.

Updated: February 27, 2019 09:24 PM

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