© Roberto Bautista Agut

Roberto Bautista Agut has seven horses at home in Spain.

Bautista Agut's Secret Weapon: Seven Horses

Spaniard reflects on his love off the court before playing Djokovic

Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut is as solid as they come. On the court, he puts pressure on players with his flat groundstrokes and a knack for avoiding mistakes. But off the court, he has a secret weapon: horses.

In fact, Bautista Agut owns seven of them back home in Spain. And while he spends most of his year traveling to tournaments on the ATP Tour, he always has something to look forward to when he has time off.

“I think they are very important for me. I worked hard all my life because I had a dream to have my house with my stables with my horses and I think it’s a very good part of my life,” Bautista Agut said. “I like to spend a lot of my time with them when I’m at home after [dealing with] the stress of life on the tennis tour.”

Bautista Agut trained hard as a kid, competing in tennis and soccer. He played soccer until the age of 14, when he decided to focus on tennis. But sports are not all that was on his mind as a youngster.

“I used to spend a lot of time in a small village with my grandfathers and in the village I saw a lot of horses and I spent a lot of time there,” Bautista Agut said. “It was a dream to get some, but not because nobody had a horse in the family in these years. In the past, they used to have them.

“It helps me a lot to get my mind off tennis, off the tennis tournaments, off the stress of the tennis life. It helps me a lot to clear my mind, to enjoy with them, to get a little bit of peace after the tournaments.”

Watch Live

It’s never easy to get over a loss. But Bautista Agut has found that after especially tough defeats, he turns his mind straight back to his stables.

“It happens to me very often after being away for a while,” Bautista Agut said. “I really like to come back and spend time with them.”

Bautista Agut began his 2019 ATP Tour season on a tear, defeating Novak Djokovic en route to the Doha title and advancing to the Australian Open quarter-finals. He won his first nine matches of the year, but a fever derailed his form.

“It’s been two years in a row that I did a very good pre-season for a month and then I started playing well in Australia and after that I got a fever for seven days,” Bautista Agut said. “It’s not easy to recover — the body and everything — after two very good months of practice and a lot of stress physically. Now I feel great. I think I played a good tournament in Dubai. I lost in the second round against Basilashvili, but played a good match. Last week it was also a good match [against Yoshihito Nishioka in the second round], but I couldn’t get the win. Tennis is a very, very tough sport. To be 100 per cent every day or every tournament during the year, it’s very tough.”

After an impressive victory against Italian Fabio Fognini on Sunday, Bautista Agut will get another shot at upsetting Djokovic. The World No. 1 leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 7-2, but Bautista Agut’s second triumph against Djokovic came at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Shanghai three years ago.

“He is one of those players that makes you work very hard for every single point. He doesn't make mistakes. Just runs around the court,” Djokovic said. “He's very, very consistent and very solid. He improved his backhand, he improved his serve, and his forehand was always very, very solid and powerful. He won against me in Doha this year. I was a set and a break up. I remember that match. He managed to turn the match around. I'll definitely do my homework.”

Bautista Agut knows the challenge in front of him. All he’s hoping for is to recover well, lace up his sneakers, and give the Serbian all he has.

“I know Novak pretty well because we’ve been playing against each other for the past six or seven years. He’s a great player, he’s No. 1 in the world and every time I have to play him, it’s a very tough match. I have to be very concentrated Of course it’s a very strict match mentally and physically,” Bautista Agut said. “I hope to be ready for Tuesday.”