By Williams ‘Bantu’ Irubor
Roger Federer saw off Roberto Bautista Agut at the Miami Open to remain on course for back-to-back Masters titles, but top seed Stan Wawrinka is out.
Federer has begun 2017 with some of the best, and most unexpected, form of his career and after claiming Masters title number 25 at Indian Wells just over a week ago, he remains on course for number 26 this weekend having equalled his best start to a season (16-1) with a 7-6 7-6 triumph.
The Swiss did not have everything his own way against Bautista Agut, needing a couple of tie-breaks to see off the Spanish 14th seed in just under two hours.
Bautista Agut took to the court having never beaten Federer in their five previous meetings, never having broken the 18-time Grand Slam winner and never having got to five games against the Australian Open champion.
After a seven-minute delay as Bautista Agut received treatment on a nasty looking foot injury, the opening game lasted eight minutes on the Spaniard’s serve, Federer struck with to break immediately in the second set.
Bautista Agut hit back with a break of his own as Federer’s first serve let him down more than at any time over the last few weeks. At 4-4 Federer began to go through the gears but found Bautista Agut in equally impressive form as the pair traded yet more thrilling rallies until Federer ran through the tie-break to claim a hard-fought victory.
Federer would next face 2010 Miami runner-up Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals of Miama Open.