Bautista Agut, Kerber champions

Bautista Agut, Kerber champions

Roberto Bautista Agut continued to shine in New Zealand when the Spaniard won his second Auckland Classic title with a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 victory over second seed Juan Martin del Potro on Saturday.

The fifth seed, who clinched the title in 2016 but was unable to defend it last year due to illness, romped through the first set in 31 minutes as he broke his Argentine opponent three times and produced numerous forehand winners.

The second set went on serve with neither able to get a break point opportunity until the 10th game, which Del Potro seized upon to send the match into a decider when Bautista Agut hit a backhand into the net after a cagey baseline rally.

Neither player offered up many opportunities in the third set until the 11th game, when the Spaniard converted on the second of his break points to take a 6-5 lead and then held serve to triumph in a little more than two hours.

Both players will now turn their attention to next week's Australian Open in Melbourne, where Bautista Agut will play compatriot Fernando Verdasco in the first round, while Del Potro takes on American prospect Frances Tiafoe.

Easy victory

Germany's Angelique Kerber beat Australia's Ashleigh Barty in straight sets to win the Sydney International for her ninth consecutive win on Saturday ahead of the Australian Open.

The former world No 1 was too strong for Barty, winning the final 6-4, 6-4 to give her a massive confidence boost for the year's opening Grand Slam in Melbourne.

It was Kerber's first title since the 2016 US Open and was the left-hander's second win over the 19th-ranked Barty in three meetings.

Kerber, who began last year as No 1 before finishing at No 22, continued her 2018 resurgence and remains unbeaten this year.

"I had a great week. I played good tennis," Kerber said.

"The final against Ash was not easy, but I was able to play my game in important moments. So I'm really happy and proud to win the first title in 2018.

"It's just the beginning of the year, but I think I'm getting closer to my best the level again and just trying to focus from match to match and trying to play again my tennis like I played in the last years, especially 2016."

Kerber won her four matches at last week's mixed teams Hopman Cup in Perth before her five victories in Sydney.

 

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