March 3, 2018 – DUBAI, UAE: Second seed Lucas Pouille and third seeded Roberto Bautista Agut will face each other in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday.
Pouille was stretched to the limit before overcoming an opponent he also had a fierce battle with in the Marseille quarter-finals last week, needing two hours 19 minutes to beat seventh seed Filip Krajinovic 6-3 6-7 (4) 7-6 (5). Bautista Agut ended the brave run of unseeded wild card Malek Jaziri, winning 6-3 6-4.
Jaziri's performances have lit up Centre Court this week, and although he fell at the semi-final stage he went down fighting. After Bautista Agut had taken the opening set off the back of a break in the second game Jaziri broke to lead 3-1 and held for 4-1 in the second. But although he was cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd he was unable to hold on to his lead as Bautista Agut won the next five games and the match.
There was drama at the end though, as Bautista Agut fought back from 0-40, and the match ended in controversy when Bautista Agut appeared to hit a double fault on match point but Jaziri had used up his three challenges.
'The last serve was out, his serve. Even if I congratulated him, he told me, 'Sorry, it was out. Bad luck',' said Jaziri, while also admitting that all his efforts this week had taken their toll on him.
'I was not ready today physically 100% like I wanted. I gived everything on the court. I put a lot of energy to come back second set. 4-1, I had a few opportunities. I went down a little bit physically. I think he make me play every ball. Every time one more ball, one extra ball on the court. Not easy to play a player like him. Every time you have to push more, to go forward to the court, to make winners. He don't make lot of mistakes. Not easy to play guys like that if you're not ready physically, I think.'
Bautista Agut was grateful that he was able to fight off Jaziri's second set efforts.
'Well, I'm happy, no? I'm in the first final in a 500 event. I think I did a great match. He had a very good support from the crowd. It was a nice feeling on the court. He was playing unbelievable at the beginning of the second set. He was playing very fast. He was playing some good volleys. I tried to play very aggressive. I think I did it. He had two easy mistakes, and I played very solid that game.'
The start of Pouille's match was first delayed by light rain and then only one game was able to be completed before a short break. When play resumed Pouille put away a volley to break for 4-2 on his fifth break point and that was enough to secure the opening set. In the second set Pouille failed to win a break point at 1-1 and although he did go on to break to lead 3-2 he was unable to serve out the match at 5-4. Another rain break followed before Pouille failed to win a break point for 6-5 and a relieved Krajinovic took the tiebreak.
There were no break points in a closely fought final set, with Pouille squeezing out the tiebreak. It was a battle he was far happier to win than lose.
'Of course,' said Pouille. 'I think that would have hurt a lot. I was much better first and second set, 6-3, 5-3. I think I made a mistake (to) continue playing when it was raining. After that we couldn't even move. It was just serve and return. But he deserved to win the second set. I mean, he put the return in the court. He was aggressive. I couldn't put a first serve, so... Then in the third, it was very, very close. Yeah, I'm just very happy I get through this one.'
The doubles final will be between second seeds and defending champions Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau and unseeded Jamie Cerretani and two-time former champion Leander Paes. Rojer and Tecau beat Ivan Dodig and Rajeev Ram 7-5 6-3, and Cerretani and Paes defeated Damir Dzumhur and Filip Krajinovic 6-4 6-2.
'We congratulate Lucas Pouille and Roberto Bautista Agut on reaching the final,' said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. 'Both overcame very determined opponents, with Filip Krajinovic challenging Bautista Agut right to the final ball. Malek Jaziri failed to reach the final, but his performances throughout the week have thrilled us all. We look forward to seeing him again next year.'
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak added, 'We could not have asked for a closer match than Pouille's hard-fought victory over Krajinovic. It is a tribute to both players that they were able to maintain such a high standard despite the interruptions they had to endure. Malek Jaziri also fought to the end and has enjoyed the best week of his career. Now we have a fascinating final between two players who have already won a title this year. It will be very interesting to see who adds a second title on Saturday.'
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.