ATP Monte Carlo third round preview: Roger Federer - Roberto Bautista Agut

Roger Federer and Roberto Bautista Agut lock horns for a fifth time in Monte-Carlo, on another impressive line-up at the first clay Masters 1000 event of the year.

Federer To Play His Second Match On Return

Federer during his first match on his return (Photo: Getty Images/Valery Hache)
Federer during his first match on his return (Photo: Getty Images/Valery Hache)

Roger Federer will take on Roberto Bautista Agut in his second match since his return to the ATP World Tour due to an absence cause by a knee injury and an illness he received in Miami. The Swiss made a solid return to playing on Tuesday, as he defeated Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 6-4 in the second round of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, to win for the first time since January at the Australian Open. The world number three received a bye through to the encounter with Garcia-Lopez, and he needed only 74 minutes to set-up the match with Bautista Agut.

The event in Monte-Carlo is Federer’s first since exiting the Australian Open at the semifinals stage to eventual champion Novak Djokovic. He attempted a return at Miami just under a fortnight ago, but had to withdraw before his second round match against Juan Martin del Potro due to an illness.

Bautista Agut Looking Back In-Form

Bautista Agut reached the fourth round in Miami last week (Photo: Getty Images/Clive Brunskill)
Bautista Agut reached the fourth round in Miami last week (Photo: Getty Images/Clive Brunskill)

Whereas this is Federer’s second match in Monte-Carlo, Bautista Agut will be playing his third already this week, as he did not receive a bye into the next round. The Spaniard defeated compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4, 7-6(4) in the opening round, before beating Jeremy Chardy in a three set battle, 6-3, 5-7, 7-5. The twenty-seven year-old has never gone before the third round in Monte-Carlo, but a win over the Swiss great will put that point to one side.

Bautista Agut started 2016 in stunning form, winning titles in Auckland and Sofia to lead the ATP’s Race to London rankings in the early stages of the season. Since then he hasn’t shown the same sort of consistency, but reached the fourth round in Miami as he was defeated by runner-up Kei Nishikori.

Head-To-Head

The pair after their US Open clash (Photo: Getty Images/Matthew Stockman)
The pair after their US Open clash (Photo: Getty Images/Matthew Stockman)

The pair will meet for the fifth time on Thursday, with all the previous meetings coming in the last two years. The first encountered each other at the US Open in 2014, with Federer winning their fourth round clash in comfortable style. The other three matches have all resulted in the same manner, as Federer has won every meeting in straight sets, and has never required a tie-breaker.

Interestingly enough, this will be the first to take place on clay, a factor which could make the head-to-head more intriguing. It will be the first match since Cincinnati last year.

What To Expect

Federer and Bautista Agut have never met on clay, but it’s unlikely we’ll see anything different from their previous encounters.

The Spaniard’s game is consistent, but lacks any real weapon or power to trouble the very best players. The consistency will be another advantage for Federer, who could tune in his game even more to use in the latter rounds. He will get plenty of looks to break the serve of Bautista Agut, and will not give his opponent many look-ins to break themselves.

The world number seventeen will have to hope that he plays to his fluent best, alongside Federer perhaps showing a lack of match play with only match since January. Even if it shows, the seventeen-time Grand Slam champion should progress through, but may require a third set to settle it.

Prediction: Roger Federer in straight sets

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