Doha—Roberto Bautista Agut followed up his shock victory over world number one Novak Djokovic by lifting the Qatar Open title on Saturday.
The Spaniard ground out a hard-fought victory in three sets against the Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych, winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the final.
“It’s been a fantastic week for me,” he said immediately after his triumph.
“Today it was not easy to manage all the emotions I had on court.”
It was the 30-year-old’s ninth career title and his first in Doha.
Bautista Agut will rise one place in the world rankings to 23 on the back of the victory in Qatar, and said his aim was to go higher.
“Why can I not be close to the top 10?” he asked afterwards.
He added that his immediate aim was to “be fresh” and then win as many matches “as I can” in Melbourne at the Australian Open.
The victory came 24 hours after he beat Djokovic in the semi-final, also in three sets.
He also beat three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka in straight sets earlier in the week.
In total, Bautista Agut only lost two sets all week in his five matches.
The Spaniard made the decisive break of serve in the third game of the final set to take a lead he never lost.
Wildcard Berdych threatened to break back but squandered two points on Bautista Agut’s serve in the seventh game.
“Roberto was too good, so well done for the title today, but I am happy for the week,” said Berdych, whose 2018 season was blighted by a back injury.
The defeat was the second time Berdych has lost in the Qatar final, the first occasion was in 2015 to another Spaniard, David Ferrer.
Meanwhile in Sydney, world number one Simona Halep Sunday admitted a back injury that ended her 2018 season early was “very scary”, but she has recovered and is feeling fit heading into the new season.
The Romanian hasn’t played since withdrawing from the WTA Finals in Singapore in October with a herniated disc, and said she did nothing for six weeks to get over it.
“It was very scary because it was below the back, so it’s always dangerous. But I had treatment at home, I rested for about six weeks and I did nothing, just exercises for the back,” she told reporters ahead of the Sydney International this week.
“I didn’t have pain while I was practising this period, off-season. So now I feel confident and it’s okay. But I need to see during the official match.
“I feel relaxed, I feel rested, I feel healthy with the back. But as I said, I didn’t play a match yet so I don’t know for sure how it’s going to be.”
The early finish to 2018 was a disappointing end to a spectacular season, which saw the 27-year-old secure the year-end number one ranking for the second year running.
She got off to a stellar start, reaching the Australian Open final and went on to win the Shenzhen Open, the Rogers Cup and her debut Grand Slam crown at Roland Garros.
But it was also a year in which she split with Australian coach Darren Cahill, who is taking a break to spend time with his family.
She is yet to replace him and doesn’t plan to do so for at least the next few months.
“(Cahill) was a very big part of my career and I want to thank him for that. Together we won the Grand Slam that we always wished for,” she said.
“It’s going to be tough. And it was tough, the off-season, without a coach, without Darren. But he decided this and I fully understood because family comes first always.”
Halep has a bye in the first round at Sydney.
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