The new Fabio Fognini, Rebirth of a champion

Remember the crazy Fabio Fognini we all knew? He may be gone…

This week Fabio Fognini took the Swiss Open title in Gstaad, winning his fifth career title, all on clay. This can be considered a great victory because it came in a different way; the Fognini we saw in Switzerland this week has been way different from the one we all thought we knew.

Let’s start from the beginning. Fognini had his breakthrough year in 2013, when he was 26, in almost this period of the year. As a matter of fact, he won his first two ATP tournaments in a row, in Stuttgart and Hamburg, and reached the final for the third straight week in Umag, where he lost to Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo. All these results came during the European post-Wimbledon clay court swing, when the Italian usually plays his best tennis, and led him to a career high ranking of #13.

In 2014 he had good results at the start of the year, after the fourth round at Australian Open, he took his third career title at Vina del Mar in February and reached the final in Buenos Aires the following week. Later that year, he reached two semifinals, along with a final in Munich.

2015 was the year of the doubles–he and good friend Simone Bolelli won the Australian Open and reached the semifinals of the French Open, but also the final in Indian Wells and the Monte-Carlo Masters, before closing the year at the World Tour Finals, where they lost early in the group stage.

In 2016 Fognini started the year badly with a lot of early exits in the first rounds. Before Wimbledon, a new event changed his life and had a positive impact on his career. In fact, on the 11th of June of that year, he married Flavia Pennetta, a former Italian tennis player, who retired after her first and only Grand Slam title at US Open in 2015. As we said, after the wedding Fognini became a different player and started to focus more, and after a second round loss at Wimbledon, he won his fourth ATP title in Umag, losing only one set. He also had good results at Olympics and ended the season pretty well, reaching the final in Moscow.

At the end of 2016, his wife Pennetta revealed her pregnancy, and this also had an impact on Fognini’s game, who started to be poorer at the beginning of 2017 until the semifinal he reached in Miami Masters, his second ATP 1000 semifinal in his career after Monte-Carlo in 2013, where he lost to Rafael Nadal.

The birth of Federico, a new chapter of life

The 19th of May of this year was a day to remember for the 30-year-old, as Flavia Pennetta gave birth to Federico, their first son. This event totally changed his life as he became a different player and person.

We all know Fognini is considered as one of the “bad boys” of the ATP, maybe for the large number of arguments with umpires, maybe because he throws and breaks tons of rackets in every match, etc… But we can’t complain about his talent. This is his personality and wouldn’t probably be the same without it.

But the very “strange” thing is that he’s trying to solve this “problem,” as he’s been working hard on his mentality and his attitude on court. Before throwing a racket, now he thinks twice. And we can say hard work is finally paying off, as after the birth of his son he reached the third round in both Roland Garros and Wimbledon. At the French Open he lost in three sets to the eventual finalist Stan Wawrinka after having some set points in the first set, and at SW19 he lost a hard-fought match against World #1 Andy Murray in four sets after his opponent came back from 2-5 in the fourth.

After the British Slam, Fognini said he changed his schedule, as he decided not to play in the ATP 500 of Hamburg and asked for a wild card to the ATP 250 Gstaad, which he received. Before playing in Switzerland, he unfortunately couldn’t defend his Umag title, as he lost in the quarterfinals to Russian lucky loser Andrey Rublev, one of the main athletes of the “NextGen” movement.

The title in Gstaad, a new beginning

Here we finally come to this week’s tournament, where Fognini took his fifth career ATP title. He showed an amazing fighting spirit and a mental upgrade through the whole week. After the bye in the first round, he had to face Nicholas Gombos in a tricky second round matchup. After a tough first set, which he lost 1-6, the Italian stayed focused on the match and managed to win easier the following two sets. In the quarterfinals his opponent was Latvian Ernests Gulbis, former Roland Garros semifinalist. Fognini had to go through another two-hour match, but in the end prevailed again in three sets. In the semifinal Fognini showed his best. After losing the first set to Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 5-7 with the only break coming in the final game, “Fogna” didn’t give up and fought on every single point, and left only five games to his opponent in the second and third sets. In the final he defeated Yannick Hanfmann, a German qualifier, the surprise of the tournament. The German probably suffered from the emotion of playing his first ATP final, and seemed not to control himself on court. Fognini started well in the first set with two breaks in a row and a chance for the third, but then there was a little comeback from the qualifier. Fognini closed it 6-4. The second set was way more fought with the deciding break from the italian who came in the eleventh game, before serving the match out with the score of 7-5.

In the victory speech, the OIalian seemed very wise and dedicated the title to his family, especially to little son. Well, we can say that speech is the photograph of this new Fognini, a calmer player and a good father, who started to use his brain, and this is of course positive thing. Now, at 30 years old and in the 26th position in the rankings, can he live a second youth? The future looks bright for this new player, the “new” Fabio Fognini.

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