|French Open 2014|
|Tomas Berdych (6) [CZE)||vs||Roberto Bautista Agut (27) [ESP]|
ScheduleFriday, 30 May 2014 at 11:00 GMT / 12:00 UK / 16:30 IST
VenueCourt 2, Roland Garros
This match-up has all the makings of a five-setter. Not quite in the John Isner vs Nicolas Mahut mould, but I'm sure that come game day, these two will be scrapping for the right to progress to the fourth round. It will be 6th ranked Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic versus 27th seed Roberto Bautista Agut from Spain, in this third round clash.
In the lead-up to this match, both players have had contrasting results in their second round encounters.
Despite what looked like a comfortable four set victory, Berdych had to focus hard on getting past Kazakhstan's 99th ranked player Aleksandr Nedovyesov. Berdych lost the opening set in a tie-breaker, but once he figured out how to deal with Nedovyesov's service game, he won the next three sets. It wasn't overly convincing, but a win is a win, and he'll take it.
Meanwhile, the ever improving Spaniard is making every post a winner, and he'll be feeling confident against Berdych, especially the way that most Spanish players are adept at playing on clay. He eased past French hope Benoit Paire (#61) in three sets 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-2 in what was a straight forward result.
Both players have had good starts to 2014. Berdych in particular won at Rotterdam, and made two other finals losing in Dubai to Roger Federer, and at Oeiras (Portugal) to Argentinian Carlos Berlocq. He also made the semi-finals at the Australian Open, losing to the eventual winner Stan Wawrinka, as well as the 1000 event at Miami, losing to Rafael Nadal. That's pretty good form to bring into the second slam of the year. Berdych's averages are much higher than Bautista Agut's, mainly because he's been on the tour for much longer. His win/loss record is up near 65%, while his clay court average is 64%.
Bautista Agut on the other hand has made two semi-finals, in Auckland he lost to eventual champion John Isner, and at Madrid (on clay) where he lost to Rafa in straight sets, but more importantly, knocked off fellow Spaniards Tommy Robredo and Fernando Verdasco along the way. He also made the fourth round in the Australian Open and at Indian Wells. No doubt, he is a player on the rise, and appears a good prospect looking forward. He probably needs to improve his averages a bit more, as his career win/loss record is slightly over 50% (48 wins total versus 47 losses), while on clay it is 14 and 13.
In the head-to-head match-ups, Berdych and Bautista Agut have met three times, with the Spaniard taking a slight edge: 2-1. Their most recent encounter was the round of 64 at the 1000 event at Indian Wells where Bautista Agut got home in three: 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. On form and statistics, it would seem that Berdych has the right to go into this match as favourite. But as we've seen through the first three days, rankings and reputations count for little, as Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishkori, Li Na and Serena Williams have found to their cost.
I'll go the way of Berdych, but in a tight five set tussle.