Rome Day Two: A Not So Surprising Upset By Fabio Fognini

Fabio Fognini (zimbio.com)

On a beautiful Tuesday evening in the eternal city, Fabio Fognini defeated an unrecognizable Andy Murray bringing the head-to-head with the world No. 1 to 3-3. Rafa Nadal also hates dealing with Fabio’s eccentric talent, which proves that the Italian is sometimes capable of playing top-ten tennis but can’t do it consistently.

ROME – When Fabio Fognini plays his best tennis, he is truly a caliber player. Unfortunately he can’t consistently sustain his highest level on a day-to-day basis. Fognini can match great champions such as Nadal and Murray in every department and has also defeated each of them on three occasions. Besides last night’s win over the current world No. 1, Fabio’s most convincing performances occurred in a crucial Davis Cup tie against Murray in 2014 and at Flushing Meadows when he came back from a two sets to none deficit to prevail over Nadal in 2015.

When Fabio climbed all the way to No. 13 in the world after winning two tournaments in a row (Stuttgart and Hamburg) and then reaching the final in Umag, he was only 600 points away from the top ten – a goal that hasn’t been achieved by any Italian male player since the ancient times of Panatta and Barazzutti.

Unfortunately he wasn’t able to hold his spot in the top 20 and his ranking slowly but surely started to decline, even though every now and then he delights his fans with his wonderful talent, including an epic match at the Olympics against Murray. In Rio Fabio lead 3-1 in the final set but failed to capitalize on the opportunity and ended up losing the match.

Fabio has deceived tennis fans for many years. Nobody has ever had any doubts about his technical skills and extraordinary speed, while his inconsistency and inability to maintain his concentration day-in and day-out have always been his main weakness. A player’s ranking is built with continuity and Fabio has never showed any. It’s a fact, not an opinion.

Many tennis experts might argue that last night Murray was far from his best, but it is equally true that Fabio hit plenty of phenomenal winners and would have left any opponent speechless, including the world No. 1 and defending champion.

Besides a couple of decent games during which Murray climbed from 2-5 to 4-5 in the second set, the Scot appeared out of sorts throughout most of the match. Fognini was able to hit an astonishing seven drop-shot winners and Murray didn’t even make an attempt at chasing any of them down. Andy seemed almost paralyzed even when some of Fognini’s shots weren’t extremely difficult to counterpunch.

Murray is famous for his ability to anticipate and react.  He is a master at transitioning from defense to offense with speed, which usually enables him to hit winners from defensive positions. That is the reason why his lackluster performance in the Italian capital was so surprising.

On the other hand, Fognini seemed as inspired as ever during the first hour of the match. His forehand was deadly while his backhand was so deep that it didn’t allow Murray to dictate the pace of the rallies. A few backhands that Fabio hit down-the-line were absolutely stunning winners.

The final score was 6-2, 6-4 in Fognini’s favor. Ten years ago Filippo Volandri upset Roger Federer in Rome with the exact same score. Back then a few tennis analysts wrote that Volandri simply took advantage of one of Federer’s rare bad days at the office. Truth be told, that day Volandri played the match of his life, exactly like Fognini played extraordinary tennis last night. Only four Italians had previously defeated the world no. 1 player in five occasions: Barazzutti against Nastase, Panatta against Connors (twice), Pozzi against Agassi and the above-mentioned Volandri against Federer.

A day to forget for Sharapova

 

In the women’s tournament, an injury forced Maria Sharapova to retire during her second round match with Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, whose life has gone through so many ups and downs that it is sometimes difficult to count how many times her career has resurged from the ashes. From a history of family abuse with a violent father to escaping to America without a penny in her pocket, Lucic-Baroni’s comeback to big time tennis is one of the feel-good stories of the 2017 season.

It was a horrible day for Sharapova, who was denied a wild card to play at Roland Garros by the French Tennis Federation. In the past few days, rumors hinted at the possibility of Sharapova receiving a special invitation to at least enter the qualifying tournament in Paris. Instead the Russian ended up empty handed. I wonder if the French Federation’s decision was influenced by the fact that Maria showed some rust in her first three comeback tournaments after her 15 month suspension. The officials probably thought that she wouldn’t have been a factor in Paris anyway. Then again, which female players are currently looking like serious contenders at Roland Garros? Except for Halep and Mladenovic, most of the top women are showing some very poor form at the moment. And unfortunately none of them are as much of a celebrity as Sharapova nor can they sell headlines.

(Article translation provided by T&L Global – Translation & Language Solutions – www.t-lglobal.com)

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