© Alvaro Diaz/AnyTech365 Andalucia Open

Top seed Pablo Carreno Busta reaches his eighth ATP Tour final after a three-set thriller against Albert Ramos-Vinolas at the AnyTech365 Andalucia Open.

Carreno Busta To Meet Munar In All-Spanish Marbella Final

Munar defeats #NextGenATP Alcaraz to reach first ATP Tour final

Top seed Pablo Carreno Busta was made to work after claiming a one-sided opening set against Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Saturday, fighting through 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(5) to book a spot into the AnyTech365 Andalucia Open final.

Carreno Busta improved to 3-1 in the ATP Head2Head after claiming his third clay-court victory over his countryman in Marbella. Their fourth clash seemed like it was going to be a quick win for Carreno Busta, who soon took control on Estadio Manolo Santana.

“It was so close. I don’t know what happened in the second set,” Carreno Busta said in an on-court interview. “At the beginning of the match, I was very focussed on my game and being aggressive. After that, Albert of course started to push [back] more and [I] started to lose my level a little bit. 

“I just kept fighting all the time, and I want to thank everyone [in the crowd] for their support. This is what we missed last year, the crowd. It’s very important to play these kinds of very close matches with a crowd like this.”

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The top seed was overpowering Ramos-Vinolas from the baseline, and finding joy by injecting variety into their exchanges with changes of pace and quick hands at the net. Carreno Busta took a commanding 5-0 lead before Ramos-Vinolas found his footing, but he was soon in for a battle as his countryman found his range in the second set.

Ramos-Vinolas’ serve was firing, and he raised his level to take control of the rallies. In the opening set, Ramos-Vinolas won only one point from 10 off of his second serve, and was hitting 56 per cent (14/25) of first serves. He had greatly improved his numbers and found more first serves (21/28) in the second. For the 12th time in his last 13 matches, Ramos-Vinolas sent them into a deciding set (8-3).

The fourth seed carried that positive momentum as he bossed proceedings in the decider, and was two points from victory as he served for the match at 5-4. But a double fault and errant forehand from Ramos-Vinolas handed Carreno Busta a lifeline to level the score at 5-5. He needed three match points in the decider, sealing the victory after two hours and 11 minutes for a spot into his eighth career final.

He will meet first-time ATP Tour finalist Jaume Munar in the championship match. Munar improved his overall record in Marbella to 12-2 on Saturday after winning a grueling 7-6(4), 6-4 battle against 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz.

Munar, 23, was contesting his ninth consecutive match in Marbella after reaching the ATP Challenger Tour final last week, at this same venue, for the second year in a row. He maintained his momentum at the ATP 250 event, dropping just three games against second seed Fabio Fognini along the way.

“I feel happy and excited. I’ve been working a lot during the past [few] months," Munar said. "It’s a gift for me to be here in a final, and especially in Marbella which is one of my favourite places. I feel excited… I have no words."

Munar stayed calm as he weathered nearly two hours of Alcaraz’s huge groundstrokes. The 17-year-old frequently blasted highlight-reel worthy winners off his forehand, but Munar stayed toe-to-toe by matching his aggression. They stayed deadlocked into the tie-break, where Munar finally pulled away to take the opening set.

The 23-year-old broke first in the second set after a marathon 10-minute game, converting his sixth break point with a wicked passing shot up the line. It was a strategy that paid dividends for Munar, who retrieved everything Alcaraz sent his way and waited patiently for a chance to pull his opponent away from the baseline.

Although he was broken while serving for the match, Munar redeemed himself emphatically a game later with another screaming passing shot to set up match point. He closed out the victory to reach his first ATP-level final, where he will face countryman Carreno Busta in an all-Spanish final.

“A difficult match for sure, but I’ve been through difficult matches all week long. Pablo is also a very hard hitter and an intense player,” Munar said. “It’s going to be something similar [to playing Alcaraz] but of course, Pablo has a lot more experience. He has won titles in the last years, and he’s one of the best players in the world. We know each other a lot. I have all the best wishes for tomorrow, but it’s going to be a tough one.”

Did You Know?
Four players from the same country are in the semi-finals of an ATP Tour event for the first time in 17 years (2004 Valencia). Now and then, four Spaniards accomplished the feat at a clay court event in Spain held in the month of April.