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 ATP Rankings at 24 years old. 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, during which he made his way into the elite. With Vendrell by his side, Bautista Agut has produced the most impressive moments of his success-packed career: his nine ATP Tour titles, his Grand Slam semi-final [Wimbledon in 2019], winning the Davis Cup and playing at the Olympic Games, among many other milestones.
“It’s a moment you never see coming,” admits Bautista Agut 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 Daniel Gimeno-Traver and Tomas Carbonell into his team, who will split the weeks between them 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,” he explains.
“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, who is in the midst of an intense preseason in Castellon with the man from Nules, added. “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 recounts. “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’d worked with him before, we know each other and it will be important to get his advice.”
Bautista Agut 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, the World No. 19 had to withdraw from the event in Madrid 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,” he explains. “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.”
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 Bautista Agut, 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,” the Spaniard said. “Personally I think you have to nurture your passion, take care of it. 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.”
The Spaniard, who will compete in the ATP Cup in Sydney and the Australian Open to kick off his 2022 season, is in no doubt about what he wants from the new year.
“Firstly, to have a consistent year,” says the World No. 19, who has finished the past eight seasons inside the Top 25 in the ATP Rankings. “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.”