Fabio Fognini dethrones the King in Monte Carlo

In perhaps one of his best ever performances, the often erratic Fabio Fognini dismissed the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal. Admittedly, Nadal didn’t play at the level we’re accustomed to, serving no aces, two double faults and managing just six games. But that should take nothing away from Fognini, who delivered a commanding performance, rifling winners from all over the court and redirecting Nadal’s power with ease. Pushing Nadal back with his depth of shot, Fognini controlled the court by playing up on the baseline and taking the ball early. In essence, Fognini gave a masterclass to the master.

Indeed, for much of the second set Nadal looked to be in danger of being handed his first bagel on a clay court since 2007. But with Fognini leading 5-0 and serving for the match, Nadal was finally able to get on the board, rallying from 40-0 down to play his best game of the match. At 40-30, Rafa fired off three winners to earn his first game of the set. All too often in the face of such determined, if belated, resistance the Italian has lost his focus and bowed out of the fight. But not this time. Instead, Fognini capitalized on his second chance to serve out the match to claim a memorable win.

Fabio Fognini’s Monte Carlo Run

Fabio Fognini’s path to the final has been anything but straightforward. He arrived in the Principality in dreadful form, with just a handful of wins to his name, none of which had come on clay. And he has had to battle hard from the off. In his opener, against Andrey Rublev, he was nearly eliminated. But down a set and a break, Fognini found his stride just in time and rallied to claim a 4-6 7-5 6-4 victory. He did then benefit from Gilles Simon’s withdrawal in the second round.

But, in the round of 16, Fognini’s faced the tall task of third seed Alexander Zverev. The first set was a nail biter. The German seemed poised to win it, until Fognini roared back to seal it in a tiebreak, 8-6. From there Fognini didn’t look back, cruising through the second set, in which he yielded just a single game. In the last eight, Croatia’s Borna Coric found himself up against not just Fognini, but almost the entire, mostly Italian crowd, who were not shy in making their sympathies known. Coric nonetheless quickly claimed the first set, but Fognini seized back control of the match in the second en route to a 1-6 6-3 6-2 win.

A Look at The Final

In his bid for the trophy, Fabio Fognini will face the resurgent Dusan Lajovic, who has enjoyed a dream run in Monte Carlo. To get to the final, the Serbian has faced and conquered three seeded players: David Goffin, Indian Wells champion Dominic Thiem and the red-hot Daniil Medvedev, who had upset two-time champion and world #1 Novak Djokovic in the previous round. It’s certainly no fluke that Lajovic finds himself in this prestigious final. He’s performed at a level worthy of a champion.

It will be an interesting match up between two seasoned campaigners, playing in their first Masters 1000 final. The influence of coach Jose Perlas has positively impacted the Serb’s game. Now playing with belief and conviction, Lajovic will, in fact, be making his debut in a tour-level final. An obstacle other than Fognini may be a blister he’s struggled with throughout the tournament. But Lajovic, who suggested he would be willing to cut off his toe if necessary, seems unlikely to let that stand in his way.

Fognini, meanwhile, certainly has the weapons to take this title. In his semifinal victory over Nadal, the Italian blasted 21 winners, and whilst he also struck 22 unforced errors, that is not a bad ratio on a clay court. Especially against Nadal, who has few weaknesses to target. But, Fognini punished every misstep the great Spaniard made ruthlessly. And, you can expect more of the same when he meets Dusan Lajovic.

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