The solitary “vamos Rafa” that a Spanish fan called out in an otherwise quiet No 1 Court summed up the sense that Roberto Bautista Agut’s win against Argentine Guido Pella was very much the undercard of the afternoon’s proceedings.
With Bautista Agut and his controlled laserlike rallying game defeating Pella in four sets, it will give more chances to shout “vamos” in the semi-finals. His presence alongside Rafa Nadal is the first time that two Spanish men have reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon.
There was always going to be a quarter-final missing one of the big three, but would any one have predicted it would be Bautista Agut and Pella, ranked 22 and 26 in the world respectively? Before the match the Spaniard was the only player in both the men’s and women’s draw who had not dropped a set, while Pella had clawed his way through the tournament, including an epic five-set win over Canadian big server Milos Raonic.
Most will favour Novak Djokovic in their semi-final, but he has twice fallen to the Spaniard this season – at Doha and Miami. Bautista Agut possesses great athleticism due to his years in the Villarreal football academy.
Pella believes that Bautista Agut, who defeated Andy Murray in the first round of the Australian Open in January en route to his first grand-slam quarter-final, is only second to Djokovic in terms of consistency this season.
“I think he’s the most solid guy on tour, maybe behind Djokovic. I think now in this tournament he’s playing very, very good,” he said.
Bautista Agut may have a reputation on tour for being robotic in how he plays, giving away little in terms of emotion, but upon coming through the fourth set as a dogged Pella tired, he pointed skywards.
This was in tribute to the 31-year-old’s late mother Ester, who passed away last year. The locker room, including prominent players such as Djokovic, had previously praised his mental fortitude in playing well through the trauma – including reaching that quarter-final in Melbourne.
“There were also a lot of emotions in the match. Well, I feel very happy to be in the semi-final,” he said.
He did not dwell on this beyond acknowledging it had been a “tough year”, but turned to happier matters as he explained that his surprise run had meant missing his stag party in Ibiza; six friends currently celebrating on the Balearic Island will be heading to SW19 for the semi-final tomorrow.
At times the match played out more like a clay-court encounter, with both players staying for large portions of the match on the baseline, which was bald from wear over the past 10 days.
It suited both players’ strengths as accurate, low hitters. Bautista Agut ground out the first two sets, with his forehand giving him the advantage in long rallies.
Pella got the crowd behind him due to his willingness to make more approaches closer to the net in order to force his opponent out of rhythm, and that, combined with his dogged nature, brought him the third set 6-3, as the Spaniard repeatedly hit the net.
Bautista Agut, however, refocused and the strength of his forehand swept him to victory.