Bautista Agut: 'You Have To Keep The Flame Burning'
Roberto Bautista Agut has never been in a rush. The Spaniard, one of the most consistent players on Tour, broke into the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings at 24 years of age. His journey has been a steady one, completing each phase with measured aplomb. Now, with an already impressive career under his belt, he is looking to prolong his prowess on Tour.
The Castellon-native will embark on the 2022 season having ended his professional relationship with Pepe Vendrell, his coach for the past 11 years, time during which he made his way into the elite. With Vendrell by his side, he produced the most brilliant moments of his successful career: his nine ATP Tour titles, Grand Slam semi-final, ATP Masters 1000 final and many other milestones.
“It's a moment you never see coming,” Bautista Agut admitted to ATPTour.com. “Pepe and I have practically been one person for all this time. We were by each other's sides for many years and I've enjoyed some of the best moments of my career with him in my corner. It's a big change, especially at first. You have some well-drilled routines, you're really used to certain things, the way you work with a person.”
Bautista Agut will start this new phase of his career with a new formula, bringing former Top 50 players Daniel Gimeno-Traver and Tomas Carbonell onto his team. They will split the weeks by his side throughout the season.
“I believe in a dual team. It's a very demanding sport for just one coach and I think splitting the weeks is the best way,” Bautista Agut said.
Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
“Dani has started out very keen and excited. I have approached it with the same attitude and I feel very happy. Dani is great, a very good guy,” Bautista Agut said. “We already had a good relationship off the court. Now I guess the relationship will be even stronger.”
The bond between the two Castellon men is a strong one, and Bautista Agut will be hoping that trust provides a driving force to help him maintain his best tennis in the season during which he will turn 34.
“We’ve met up quite a lot, we’ve even played each other in the odd match,” Bautista Agut recalled. “We’ve played doubles tournaments together. Dani is a player who has had a very long career. He’s someone who has a lot of experience after being a good player. He has a different background to Pepe, who has been fantastic and fundamental for my career.
“Dani will tell me new things, he’ll help both technically and tactically. They are both quite different. Also, I’m also going to be with Tomas this year. I’ve worked with him before, we know each other and it will be important to get his advice.”
Roberto is looking to get the ball rolling again after his 2021 season came to an abrupt end. When he was ready to lead out the Spanish team in the Davis Cup Finals, Bautista Agut had to withdraw from the event at the Caja Mágica due to an abdominal injury that forced him to be cautious and take a step back.
“Injuries are like accidents, they happen when you least expect it,” Bautista Agut said. “It was a shame, but it didn’t hold me back much. Luckily it wasn’t very serious, but a tear means you have to stop everything. I couldn’t train for 15 days, although a week after the tear I started working in the gym.
“Now I’ve been doing fitness and tennis for 10 days. But I’m happy and excited and keen to play next year.”
Photo Credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images
The 2022 season presents a huge challenge for Bautista Agut. The elite of the game is packed with young talent and the average age of the Top 10 at the end of the year was 25.6, the youngest since the 2009 season. What does a player like the Spaniard, who will be celebrating his 34th birthday in April, need to maintain his place among the best players in the world?
“You have to keep the flame burning. Personally I think you have to nurture your passion, take care of it,” Bautista Agut said. “After what happened at the Davis Cup I had three days of holiday, then I started to work straight away. I’m not short on desire! I’m looking forward to having a good year next year and to continuing to compete at the top.”
“Firstly, to have a consistent year,” said Bautista Agut, who has finished the last eight seasons among the 25 best players in the world. “I’d like to complete the year without any frights or injuries. My second wish is to be able to enjoy tennis and the level of my play, to come off court and feel good about myself and the standard of my game.
“To do that, you have to have a lot of desire, to be very professional, train every day with a goal. There is a key expression that I like to repeat to myself: I have to live and breathe tennis. This sport demands a lot. There has been a change of generation, there are very young people that are already at the top with a different style of tennis to that of a few years ago. Facing that is extra motivation for me. I’m happy to be there for another year and to fight for the top positions again as I have done in recent years.”