© AFP/Getty Images

Roberto Bautista Agut defeats Marin Cilic in five sets at the Australian Open on Sunday.

Marathon Man: Bautista Agut Upsets Cilic To Reach Maiden Slam Quarter-final

Spaniard moves to 9-0 in 2019

In his 10th Grand Slam fourth-round appearance, Roberto Bautista Agut finally reached his first major quarter-final on Sunday at the Australian Open.

The 30-year-old Spaniard defeated last year's runner-up Marin Cilic 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, after three hours and 58 minutes, to record his second victory in six FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against the Croatian. Unbeaten in 2019, Bautista Agut joins Alex de Minaur at the top of the list for most tour-level match wins this year (9). In the opening week of the season, Bautista Agut claimed his ninth ATP Tour title at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, beating Stan Wawrinka, Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych in consecutive matches to lift the trophy.

"I've been playing very good tennis. I won really good matches," Bautista Agut said. "I had to fight so hard to stay very focused. It's been a great month for me and for my tennis."

Bautista Agut also needed five sets to beat Andy Murray and John Millman in the opening two rounds in Melbourne, before defeating 10th seed Karen Khachanov in straight sets. The 22nd seed will meet reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, who stunned six-time titlist Roger Federer, for a place in the semi-finals. Bautista Agut has never faced Tsitsipas at tour-level.

"Tsitsipas is a great player. He's playing a top level," Bautista Agut said. "He's one of the top players in the world. He will be one of the best, for sure. He's playing at a very high level."

Tennis Radio

After dropping his serve at 4-4 in the opening set, Cilic increased his aggression to charge back. The Croatian hit with greater power and moved up the court to reach 5-5, before taking control of the tie-break. After failing to convert four set points from 6/2, Cilic trusted his forehand on back-to-back points to take the first set.

But Bautista Agut responded in the second set, proving the more consistent player in baseline rallies to earn the only break, at 4-3, and level the match. The Spaniard carried the momentum into the third set, varying the pace on his groundstrokes to extract baseline errors from his opponent. Bautista Agut won eight of nine second-serve return points to gain two service breaks and move one set from the quarter-finals.

Cilic responded well in the fourth set, dropping just seven points behind his serve to reach 5-4. The 2014 US Open champion then capitalised on a series of unforced errors before hitting his 14th winner of the set, on his forehand, to level the match.

But it was to be Bautista Agut's day, as the Spaniard benefitted from two double faults in the ninth game of the decider before breaking serve with a forehand winner. The Doha champion then served out the match to 15 after rushing Cilic into a backhand error.

Cilic was aiming to equal Goran Ivanisevic’s records for most Australian Open (3) and Grand Slam (14) quarter-final appearances by a Croatian man.