Fabio Fognini took his biggest career title yesterday in Montecarlo, his “home tournament.” No one ever expected this huge win for the Italian.
“When I was a child, one of my biggest dreams was to win this tournament, and finally I did it.” This year’s Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters will be a tournament that the Italian–who lives in Arma di Taggia, a few kilometers away from the Principality of Monaco–will never forget, he had never won a Masters 1000 before, and he could not do it in a better way than how he did this week. Fognini was not having a good season; as a matter of fact he had only won three matches in 2019, none on clay, which is known to be his favorite surface. But this week something changed, the best version of Fabio Fognini finally showed up in the courts of the Monte Carlo Country Club.
Even if he managed to do something epic in the history of tennis, the tournament did not start in the best possible way. In the first round he was about to lose in his match against young promising Russian Andrey Rublev. He was down a set and a break and had to save five break points on a very long and frustrating 1-4 game. I had the chance to witness the match live on the center court, and I can tell you that in that game something changed. He completely changed his attitude, after receiving a lot of emotional support from the crowd, which consisted of a lot of Italian tennis fans.
Fabio’s season started there
He won that match in three sets and he stated: “I just needed some luck. I don’t know how I saved all those break points, I just know that he gifted me some points. I’ve been training so hard in the last months but the results don’t seem to come. I don’t have confidence. In this period I found it difficult to play everyone. I have pain in my elbow and also in my ankle. I will try to play until Roland Garros and then I’ll see.” After these words, we could understand all the uncertainty that the Italian was feeling.
He had some luck in the second round too, when his opponent Gilles Simon withdrew and gave him a walkover for the third round, where he would defeat World No.3 Alexander Zverev in a beautiful way, finally finding his best shots and his best game.
Victory over Nadal
In the quarter finals he had to face Borna Coric, when he recovered from a set and a break down, reaching the semifinals, where is opponent was the ‘King of clay’ Rafael Nadal. In that match Fognini fired a lot of winners and gave Rafa no way to escape. It was a superb performance, one of the best of the Italian’s carrer, even better than the third round US Open win in 2015, where Fognini defeated the Spaniard after being down to sets to love.
This victory brought confidence to the 32-year-old, who in the final act of this unbelievable fairy-tale had to face Dusan Lajovic, the Serbian surprise of the tournament, also at his first Masters 1000 final. As Fognini said, it was very tough to play as the favorite in the most important match of his career, and he felt a bit of pressure in the first games, where he went a break down. But then he found his rhythm again and started to show his most powerful tennis, winning the match in straight sets and taking the biggest title of his career. At the start of the second set, he had to ask for a medical time out, as there was a problem with his right leg, which reduced his mobility for the rest of the match.
At that time, I could see a lot of similarities with the Roland Garros 2011 fourth round match against Spaniard Albert Montanes, where a young Fognini managed to take the fifth set 11-9 and reach the quarterfinals despite being heavily injured. This injury prevented him from playing the quarterfinals against Novak Djokovic, still his best result in a Grand Slam tournament.
This time things changed
Fognini managed to play even if he was not in the best physical condition. He fought until the very end, and this a fundamental aspect, because after the match he said that in this season he lived a very dark period, with no relevant results. “I did not recognize myself in the fight, before I liked to fight in my matches, now I found again my level of tennis, improving day-by-day.” Fognini, in his post tournament documentary for Italian SkySport, stated: “I came here in Montecarlo with no expectations, my only wish was to find myself again and that’s what happened in the first round. I found my tennis and my fighting spirit. And now I’m here with the trophy.”
There could not be more heartfelt words from a player who struggled a lot through his whole career, having to fight against people always criticizing him for everything he did. This is also a victory for them, to shut down polemics and enjoy a historical achievement.
The historic title
Fognini–who beat two Top 5 players in the same tournaments for the first time in his career–has now reached the 12th position in the world ranking, his career high, and is just 245 points away from the Top 10. In the ATP Race to the London World Tour Finals, he jumped from the 97th position to the 7th, which means that he could compete for this amazing event, which is something that none could imagine before. He also wrote his name in the history of Italian Tennis, being the first to win a Masters 1000 title, and the first Italian to win in Monte Carlo after Nicola Pietrangeli in 1968. The next target is to reach the Top 10, which only two Italians reached in their careers: Adriano Panatta at No.4 and Corrado Barrazzutti, at No.7.