The big-serving South African edged to victory in two tight sets, 7-6 (6), 6-4, to book his place in Saturday’s showpiece at the Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi.
Bautista Agut had a free pass through to the final following Novak Djokovic’s injury withdrawal, but faced three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray in a one-set exhibition contest in Friday’s evening match.
The Spaniard took full advantage of a rusty Murray, winning 6-2, with the Scot still on his way back to full fitness following a troublesome right hip problem.
For 2017 US Open finalist Anderson, the prospect of facing Bautista Agut is an interesting one, given that the only time the two players previously met was in 2013, with the latter winning their first-round clash in Valencia 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
“We haven’t played each other in quite a few years so it will be interesting to step on the court against him – a lot has changed since that match a few years ago,” the 6ft 6in star told Sport360°.
“I think we’re both excited to be playing the finals here and Abu Dhabi’s a great spot in which to start the year. I think it’s going to be a good match.”
And, on the evidence of Friday evening, Anderson heads into the finale as favourite given the way he dismissed world No.5 Thiem, a man ranked nine spots higher than him.
“It was a serve-dominated match. Dom’s got a great serve — he can hit it really firm and hard,” added Anderson, who had won all his previous six competitive meetings with the Austrian.
“Midway through both the first and second sets I really felt like I found some good rhythm on his serve – I’m really pleased with that. It was good to get the early break and I served really well throughout the match.
“There wasn’t really a whole lot in it, especially in that first-set tiebreak, we were both hitting some really good serves. He hit a double in the end and that determined the first set, and then I got ahead in the second.”
Following his exhibition win against Murray, Bautista Agut weighed up the prospect of facing the in-form 31-year-old.
He said: “I’m happy with how I played the set against Andy, and on Thursday too (win over Andrey Rublev).
“I’m feeling great on the court. I feel as though I’m playing good tennis and I’m happy to be in the final in Abu Dhabi for the first time. I hope I can play well against Kevin.”
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