ABU DHABI – Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut defeated Russia’s Andrey Rublev 7-5, 6-2 at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, setting up a showdown in the semifinals of the exhibition event with Serbian star Novak Djokovic.
The world No. 20, who is playing in Abu Dhabi because countryman Rafael Nadal pulled out of the tournament, jumped to a 5-2 lead in the first set but ended up having to fight up a furious comeback by the Russian.
The 29-year-old Spaniard, who won titles in Chennai and Winston-Salem, and Djokovic, who is coming off an injury-marred 2017 season, will face on Friday.
The 20-year-old Rublev, the world No. 39, was unable to mount any resistance to Bautista Agut in the second set, allowing the Spaniard to jump to a quick 3-0 lead.
In Friday’s other semifinal, South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, the US Open finalist, will take on Austria’s Dominic Thiem.
Anderson, the world No. 14, defeated Pablo Carreño Busta, the other Spanish player competing in the event, 6-2, 7-6 (2).
Carreño Busta and Rublev will play on Friday for the No. 5 spot in the exhibition tournament.
The men’s final will be played on Saturday following the match to determine the winner of the No. 3 spot in the tournament.
Also on tap on Saturday is the first women’s exhibition match ever played at Abu Dhabi, a battle between American star Serena Williams, who is returning to the WTA Tour after giving birth, and Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko, who won the French Open.