Fabio Fognini in 2019: Exception Rather Than the Rule

ATP Italian Open Day 2 Predictions

Despite being wildly inconsistent in results, Fabio Fognini held on to a steady top 20 ranking in his 2019 campaign. The one result that has allowed him to do it was winning the 2019 Monte Carlo Masters. Beating Alexander Zverev, Borna Coric and Rafael Nadal on the way to the title, the Italian clinched the biggest title of his career.

Fabio Fognini in 2019

Ranking at the beginning of the season: 13
Ranking at the end of the season: 12
Peak rank: 9
Low rank: 18
Ranking change: +1

Singles win/loss record: 30-24
Titles: Monte Carlo
Finals: –

Fognini’s no.12 ranking and a top 10 debut this year is based primarily on one result–the biggest title of his career thus far.

Finding form at the best possible moment

That Monte Carlo run came really out of nowhere–Fognini had won just one of his last seven matches at that point. And it almost didn’t happen as the Italian was down 4-6 and 1-4 in the opening round to Andrey Rublev. Saving five break points in that game, Fognini stormed back to take the match 4-6 7-5 6-4.

Receiving a walkover from Gilles Simon in the second round, Fognini went on to upset Alexander Zverev to set up a quarterfinal meeting with Borna Coric. In another miracoulous comeback, the Italian overcame a 1-6 0-2 deficit to take the win.

His reward was a third career Masters 1000 semifinal and a blockbuster clash with Rafael Nadal. Little did we know at this point that the Spaniard was to have one of his worst starts to the clay-court season in years. Fognini was the dominant player throughout and became a hotshot machine, getting his fourth win over Nadal.

Although nothing is quite routine with Fabio, the Italian played a pretty comfortable match in the championship match against Dusan Lajovic. The Serb, also a maiden ATP Masters 1000 finalist, was unable to match Fognini’s excellence. This victory clearly meant a lot to the Italian, for whom it was the ninth ATP title of his career.

Looking for more

Fognini managed to keep up the good form for the rest of the clay court season, but faced some uneasy draws. Stopped by Dominic Thiem in Madrid and Stefanos Tsitsipas in Rome, it seemed like he finally caught a break at Roland Garros. He advanced to the fourth round in Paris and was due to face Alexander Zverev. But in a truly Fognini-like fashion, the Italian’s intensity was suddenly nowhere to be found.

His best hard court showing came in Shanghai. Fognini managed to get his third top 10 win of the season, beating Karen Khachanov. He also survived a three hour marathon against Andy Murray where the atmosphere was just as tight as the 7-6 2-6 7-6 scoreline:

Fognini was also hampered by a foot injury for which he hasn’t decided to seek a surgery a yet. After their Rogers Cup match, Rafael Nadal strongly suggested him to do it as he had a similar problem in the past and the recovery was quite unproblematic.

Keeping his ranking with different means

Although similar ranking-wise to his 2018 campaign, the two actually differ a lot from each other. Besides the Monte Carlo Masters, Fognini hasn’t made a single semifinal this season. 44% of his total ranking points come from that one big success. Meanwhile, in 2018, the Italian clinched titles in Sao Paulo, Bastad, and Los Cabos, reaching nine semifinals in the whole season.

Struggling to find consistency this season, Fognini might have to look for more opportunities at the 250 level again. Defending his Monte Carlo title is a very long shot and with the Italian’s mentality always suspect, it might end up woefully.

Fognini will now have until April to prepare for his title defense and try to gather as much points as possible in the the first few months, including the Golden Swing, which has historically been a quite prolific hunting ground for him.

When it comes to his private life, 2020 will see Fabio Fognini become a father for the second time. This time his wife, Flavia Pennetta, will give birth to a daughter.

Main Photo from Getty.