Chennai, Jan 5 (IANS) Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, who had knocked out top seed and World No.6 Tomas Berdych Friday, continued his dream run in the Aircel Chennai Open as he ousted fifth seed Benoit Paire from France in three sets to set up a title clash with last year's finalist Janko Tipsarevic.
In the semi-finals, 24-year old unseeded Agut, ranked 80, extended his winning streak against Paire by defeating the Frenchman 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in an hour and 53 minutes while second seed Tipsarevic from Serbia, got past a fighting Aljaz Bedene (Slovenia) 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 and advanced to his second consecutive final here.
Agut, who had twice beaten Paire but in a Challenger and a qualifying round in 2011, had never got past an ATP Tour quarter-final, but rode on his confidence and showed a lot of character to shrug off the first set loss to oust the 47th ranked 23-year old Paire who allowed his focus to drift after committing a bunch of errors in the second set.
While there was little to choose between the two players, the difference lay in Paire's 45 unforced errors to Agut's 24 that neutralised the Frenchman's 46 winners and 14 aces as against the Spaniard's corresponding 19 and three. Adding to Paire's woes was the six double-faults to Agut's three.
The statistics apart, Agut, like he did against Berdych, kept pace with his opponent and came up with some amazing returns even as Paire seemed to fume and fumble after dropping his serve in the first and third games of the second set.
Paire wrapped up the first set without much fuss with a break of serve in the eighth and looked to be in command. However, the match turned dramatically with Agut on a hot streak that saw him take seven of the eight games for the second set and a 1-0 lead in the third.
Paire was broken in the second and fourth games of the second and again in the first of the decider as Agut looked set for an upset win. But Paire dug deep to break back in the second to put the third set back on serve.
Agut then delivered the final blow when he broke Paire in the ninth game and then held serve to emerge deserving winner.
Earlier, Bedene, making his first appearance here after scalping two seeded players Robin Haase (6) and Stanislas Wawrinka (4), broke Tipsarevic, playing his fourth consecutive semi-final match here, in the 10th game to take the first set that was marked by long baseline rallies.
However, Tipsarevic was in full flow thereafter as he broke Bedene in the second and eighth game to take the second set in which the Serb showcased his wide range of shots that had the Slovenian scurrying from corner to corner.
In the decider, Tipsarevic jumped to a 3-0 lead with a break of serve in the second and then moved to 4-1. Bedene, playing his first ATP tour semi-final, then held serve after being down 15-40 in the sixth.
Then came the decisive moment when Bedene blew two break points in the seventh game to let the Serb off the hook. At 30-40, Tipsarevic came up with an ace to deuce, but netted a backhand to give Bedene his second breakpoint only to send an easy overhead over the baseline. The Serb took the next two points to go 5-2 up before breaking Bedene to close the match.
"Like I said last night after winning my quarter-final match, I was expecting a tough match tonight. I had played him last year in Vienna. He could not finish (retired), but he was striking well. He has potential and will be dangerous this season.
"I started ok, but instead of staying close to the baseline, I was standing two metres out. I knew I was playing well and gradually I started playing better.
"We will see him (Bedene) in the top-50 very soon," said Tipsarevic at the courtside interview, heaping praise on his young opponent who had dropped serve only twice coming into the semi-finals.
The results (Prefix denotes seeding):
Singles (semi-finals): 2-Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) bt Aljaz Bedene (SLO) 4-6, 6-2, 6-2; Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) bt 5-Benoit Paire (FRA) 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.