Monte Carlo Masters Final Prediction: Dusan Lajovic vs Fabio Fognini

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After an intriguing week in Monte Carlo, the final that absolutely no one saw coming is set. Indeed, it will be a Masters final debut for both Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic and Fabio Fognini of Italy, in what will be their first career-meeting. But both have impressed in reaching the final against incredibly long odds and are fully deserving of their shot at glory at the Monte Carlo Country Club. But who will lift the trophy and join the illustrious ranks of the Masters 1000 champions?

Dusan Lajovic

Lajovic is, in fact, making not only his first appearance in the final of a Masters, but his first ever appearance in a tour-level final. He had also never previously won a match in the main draw at the Monte Carlo Masters, with this just his fourth appearance in the main draw of a clay court Masters. However, this is not the first time he has put together a surprising run on the red dirt after he reached the quarterfinals at the Madrid Open last year as a qualifier, whilst he also reached the second week at Roland Garros in 2014.

Lajovic had never won more than three consecutive tour-level matches coming into the Monte Carlo Masters, but he has claimed five straight victories to reach the final this week, doing so without dropping a set. Nor has Lajovic benefited from an easy draw. Nonetheless, he crushed seeds David Goffin, Dominic Thiem, widely regarded as the second best clay court player in the world, and Daniil Medvedev, who bested world #1 Novak Djokovic in the last eight. Lajovic will have to deal with the nerves in what is unfamiliar territory, but he is playing the best tennis of his life and has nothing to lose.
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Fabio Fognini

Fognini, although an excellent clay court player, pulled off one of the upsets of the season when he topped Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the semifinal. He is one of two players ever, the other being the great Djokovic, to defeat Nadal in consecutive matches on clay, but his win still came as a massive surprise. Nadal came into their clash with a 54-2 record on clay since 2017, with both losses coming at the hands of an inspired Thiem. He had also won Monte Carlo a record 11 times and was the three-time defending champion. Though Nadal had perhaps not been at his very best, he had also not dropped a set. But Fognini hammered him.

Seven of the Italian’s eight career titles have come on the clay and he has generally played well in Monte Carlo, where he now owns a 62% win percentage, his best record at any of the Masters. He also has more experience at this level than Lajovic, with two previous semifinal appearances to his name, including in Monte Carlo in 2013. Alongside his victory over Nadal, he also topped third seed Alexander Zverev in straight sets in the round of 16 before rallying past ninth seed Borna Coric in the quarterfinals. However, as well as Fognini has played so far this week, throughout his career he has demonstrated a worrying tendency to collapse mentally, seemingly without warning.
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Prediction

Lajovic has looked very dangerous and has not faltered one bit on his way to the final. Fognini has looked less convincing overall, but is coming off a crushing victory over the greatest clay courter in history. Their games share few similarities and it will be interesting to see Lajovic’s powerful, first-strike tennis up against Fognini’s grinding, defensive style. There looks to be little to separate them, but Fognini is the more comfortable clay-courter and the more experienced player, which could well prove the difference on the day. Expect him to take advantage.

Prediction: Fognini in three

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