TENNIS – Last year’s ATP Monte-Carlo semifinalist and World Number 13 Fabio Fognini recovered from 5-7, 2-5 0-30 to overcome Joao Sousa from Portugal in three sets with the scoreline of 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 in the first round of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Master, the first European Master 1000 tournament on clay of the year. Diego Sampaolo
On the verge of defeat Fognini reeled off five games in a row to win the second set with 7-5 to force the match to the third set where he raised the game winning 6-4 after a two-hour and 20-minute roller-coaster match.
Fognini has been one of the most consistent players in the circuit on clay where he collected three ATP titles since last July in Stuttgart, Hamburg and Vina Del Mar, reached the final in Umago and Buenos Aires and reached the quarter final in Rio de Janeiro where he lost to Aleksander Dolgopolov and beat Andy Murray in the Davis Cup quarter final match between Italy and Great Britain in Naples. He boasts a 21-6 record of winning matches this year (including 14 wins on clay in 16 matches this year) tying the third place with Rafa Nadal. However he had to dig deep against World Number 38 Joao Sousa who came close to score a major upset against last year’s Monte-Carlo semifinalist from Arma di Taggia, a small town not far away from Monte-Carlo.
Sousa, who made his debut in Monte-Carlo this year but reached the quarter final in Rio de Janeiro last February and advanced to the third round in Miami, held serve in the first game before breaking in the second game to storm to a 2-0 in the opening set but Fognini broke straight back before getting another break to build up a 5-3 lead. Sousa turned around the match winning 16 points to 2 to clinch the first set with 7-5.
Sousa recovered by reeling off six games to build up a 7-5, 2-0 lead. Fognini broke back winning the next two games to draw level to 2-2 but Sousa got the break to go up 4-2. Fognini was two points away from defeat when Sousa served for the match at 5-2 30-0 as the Italian was on serve. Fognini broke serve when Sousa hit his forehand into the net. Fognini raised the game breaking serve to love at 5-5 before sealing the win the second set with 7-5.
Fognini did not play at the same level as in the Davis Cup match against Murray but managed to break serve for 3-2 and held serve in the next game. Sousa did not give up and earned a break point at 4-5. Fognini saved it before sealing the win on his first match point
It was not the first time that Fognini survived a big scare this year as he saved two match points against Gael Monfils in the third round at Indian Wells.
“The first match always very difficult, especially because I came here after the Davis Cup. I fell confident. Everybody say that I can reach the top-10 but I don’t fell fell more pressure. I was a bit lucky today. At 5-4 I felt heavy legs. I had no strength. I felt a bit tired after playing many matches this year”, said Fognini
In the other morning matches at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Master Radek Stepanek dropped just three games to cruise past Ivo Karlovic with 6-1, 6-2 in just 58 minutes to set up a second round match against Roger Federer on Wednesday.
German Phillip Kohlschreiber beat Italian Simone Bolelli 6-3, 6-4 to set up a second round match against Jo Wilfred Tsonga.
Novak Djokovic Survives Krajinovic Battle To Seal Last Eight Berth In Rome
Novak Djokovic reached an 85th Masters 1000 Quarter-Final in Rome.
Novak Djokovic survived a tough battle in Rome to beat Filip Krajinovic 7-6(7) 6-3 to reach the last eight.
Although the World Number one got the victory, it was a tough battle as he fought his compatriot for a place in the Quarter-Finals.
Breaks were shared to start the match as Krajinovic brought his fearless game to the top seed.
Djokovic created a total of ten break points, with only one executed as Krajinovic saved two set points in the tenth game to hold for 5-5.
After two comfortable holds, a tiebreak settled the winner of the first set as Djokovic was having a hard time to contain Krajinovic’s power.
The world number one battled from 3-0 down to edge the tiebreak 9-7 and win the opening set in 88 minutes.
Once Djokovic had survived the Krajinovic stormed, he took control and went into another gear as a break of serve in the third game was all that was needed to seal his place in the quarter-finals.
Winning 47% of his 2nd return points was key as Djokovic reaches his 85th Masters 1000 Quarter-Final of his career.
Next for Djokovic will be either talented teen sensation Lorenzo Musetti or Dominik Koepfer.
In other results today, Denis Shapovalov and Grigor Dimitrov set a last eight showdown after tight three set wins.
Shapovalov edged out Ugo Humbert 6-7(5) 6-1 6-4 while Dimitrov defeated Jannik Sinner 4-6 6-4 6-4 in a tough match.
There were also third round wins for Casper Ruud and Matteo Berrettini.
Rafael Nadal Missing Fan Support Despite Emphatic Win At Italian Open
The 19-time Grand Slam winner reacts to his latest win 200 days after his last.
The absence of a crowd at this year’s Italian Masters has been branded as ‘not beautiful’ by Rafael Nadal following his opening match on Wednesday.
The world No.2 raced to a 6-1, 6-1, triumph over US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta in what was his first competitive match of any sort since March 1st. Despite his lengthy break from the Tour, Nadal showed little rust as he dropped only eight points behind his serve and broke the world No.18 five times overall. The latest victory is Nadal’s 62nd in Rome and he has only won more matches at four other tournaments.
“Of course I have to improve things. The things that I have to improve, the only way to improve is to keep practising with the right attitude, the right intensity and to spend hours in competition matches,” he said afterwards.
“Today has been a positive start for me,” Nadal later added.
Choosing to skip the New York bubble due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nadal is still getting used to the concept of playing without the crowds. Something many of his rivals has already had experience of. The Italian Open had originally hoped to allow fans to enter its grounds before the local authorities ruled against it over concerns it could trigger an outbreak of the Coronavirus.
“It’s Not beautiful the feeling of playing without the spectators because the energy of the fans is impossible to describe. But for me, at least, today has been a very positive comeback,” Nadal assessed.
It is a case of wait and see as to how the Spaniard will fare in the coming days given his recent lack of match play compared to his rivals such as Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic. Fortunately for Nadal, he is playing on the clay which is a surface which he has won more ATP titles on than any other player in the Open Era. As for the upcoming French Open, will a lack of play in recent weeks be problematic for him?
“I don’t think so, no. If Roland Garros was this week, maybe yes. Roland Garros is two weeks away.” He concluded.
Nadal will next play either Milos Raonic or Dusan Lajovic who will play their second round match on Thursday.
Dominic Thiem And Thomas Muster: A Comparison
They are the only Austrian Slam champions in men’s tennis, but how do they stack up against each other?
The original version of this article was published on loslalom.it.
On October 24, 2011, Dominic Thiem had just turned 18 and was in the very early stages of his professional career, so the organisers of the ATP tournament in Vienna rewarded him with a wild card. On October 24, 2011, Thomas Muster had been 44 for about three weeks and at the sunset of his career, so he was also given the wild card for Vienna tournament. What no one could predict, neither the players nor the tournament organizers, was that the draw would pit them against each other in the first round, for what would be their first encounter, and ultimately the only one – after conceding with a 6-2 6-3 score in an hour and four minutes, Muster retired forever. He was the only Austrian to have won a Grand Slam tournament, in 1995 at Roland Garros, at least until Sunday night, when the then teenager who ended his career equalled him.
In the first decade of his career, Thiem has earned almost twice as much as Munster did in 18 (22 million dollars against 12). Thiem is right-handed, Muster a southpaw. Both sport one-handed backhands. It took 10 years for Muster to win a Major, and by the eleventh he was the world N.1, albeit not for long. He was a bona fide drop-shot chaser. It took nine years as a professional for Thiem to win at Flushing Meadows, but he has not yet risen higher than third in the ATP Ranking. Thiem is two inches taller (6’1’’ versus 5’11’’), he has an edge for the number of aces (5.8 per game on average against 3) and for the effectiveness of his first serve (74.2% vs 69.1%). The two are essentially tied with their second serve (53.2% vs 53.7) and in the break-points-saved department (62.9% vs 63%), but Muster is more dominant in the return games (31.6% break vs 23.5%) and, despite earning a street rep as a marathon runner, his matches were 11 minutes shorter than Thiem’s (an hour and 30 minutes against an hour and 41). His winning points ended on average in 35 seconds, Thiem’s in 37,8 seconds.
In his career Thiem has met stronger opponents, ranked on average at 35 in the world, while Muster’s foes usually hovered around number 52. Despite this, the latter managed to beat opponents better placed than him in the standings in only 9.8% of cases, while Thiem’s percentage is 12.3 %. On the contrary, Thiem was beaten in 21.4% of cases by tennis players ranked worse in the rankings, whereas this happened to Muster in 19% of cases, a percentage that drops to 13% when it comes to clay only. For a couple of weeks at the beginning of 2020, Muster coached Thiem.
The following chart summarises the numbers:
Gianni Clerici, the Italian Hall-of-Famer journalist and writer, gave Thomas Muster the moniker of “Mr Muscolo” (Mr Muscle). This is the portrait he made of him: “He’s not very nice, seven out of ten people say about Muster. A couple of them find him downright unpleasant. The remaining, meagre ten percent all but worships him. It is probably the attitude that does not appeal. His face appears incredibly rapacious, reminding of a bird of prey, or, if not strictly of an eagle or a hawk, at the very least of a possessed personality, those wide-open eyes animated by a blue and sinister light. But, even more than the face, what repels many people is his technique, his relentlessness devoid of human breathing which is fully on display as he gets back bopping on his side of the court a ripe thirty seconds before the established one minute and 25, while the unfortunate opponent is still splayed on his chair, trying to recover some breath and peace in the aftermath of the gruelling races that Muster locked him into. If the style is the man, well, the Austrian’s style does not capture the imagination. His serve is average at best, and he cautiously avoids volleying, but he has some great weapons, like that terrible loopy forehand and, in the last couple years, that no less terrible backhand slap. Come to think of it, even Muster’s ancestors, Borg and Vilas, were no less engulfing, less repetitive. But Borg had more athletic talent, his runs were very fluid, his sense of playing so high that he even managed to adapt to the Wimbledon lawns where he won five times and where Muster instead looks like a wretch. Muster has the athletic pedigree of champions but certainly not the charisma”.
Clerici also had the opportunity to write on Thiem for “la Repubblica” (an Italian daily newspaper), stating that “he was born with tennis in his blood, […] he has a refined hand, as can be seen with his drop shots and with his cross-court volleys,” then adding: “I have seen many times the Austrian go all-out on his backhand, as if he were holding an umbrella wide open, while his forehand is more akin to a machete.” Yesterday morning, he added that Thiem reminds him of “the tennis players of my time during the Fifties, when tennis was different from today, perhaps more beautiful to watch, a spectacles that intellectuals like Giorgio Bassani enjoyed, and that could have taken place in the genteel backyards sketched out in his novels.”
Translation and graphics by Andrea Canella
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