“I think I was a little bit lucky,” said Fognini, who will face 11-time champion Rafael Nadal in the last four. “I’m happy because I’m playing my second semi-final here. Happy because of course I’ve tried to do my best all week and now it’s time to play with a really good player.”
The 31-year-old saved five of eight break points to reach his second semi-final in the Principality after one hour and 59 minutes. Six years ago, Fognini defeated Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet in back-to-back matches to reach the last four in Monte-Carlo for the first time (l. to Djokovic).
In the first round, Andrey Rublev led Fognini 6-4, 4-1, but the Italian battled through and has played some of his best tennis since. The 13th seed beat World No. 3 Alexander Zverev and Coric to reach his third ATP Masters 1000 semi-final.
Entering the tournament, Fognini was on a five-match losing streak on clay. He improves to 2-0 in his FedEx ATP Head2head series against Coric, after winning their only previous encounter at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag in 2014.
Fognini will meet Nadal for a spot in the final. The World No. 18 has won just three of 14 FedEx ATP Head2Head matches against Nadal, with each of his three victories coming in 2015.
“Everywhere it’s difficult with him. I’ll just try to enjoy this match, try to recover as best I can, eat well, sleep well, play with [my son] Federico a little bit before I sleep and tomorrow is another day,” Fognini said. “I’ll try to do my best game. I know that it’s difficult, but I have the game to play against him.”
Coric appeared to be in control of the match, taking a one-set lead after 27 minutes. The ninth seed proved too consistent for Fognini from the baseline in the opening set, committing just one unforced error compared to 11 from Fognini.
But the Italian, after dropping his opening service game in the second set, soon found success. Fognini attacked Coric’s backhand to break serve for the second time at 4-3 and levelled the match in the following game to the delight of the crowd on Court Rainier III.
The World No. 18, who brought Coric forward to create passing-shot opportunities throughout the match, earned an immediate service break in the decider. The eight-time tour-level titlist moved forward to earn break point and was gifted the break as Coric misjudged his backhand return. A second break in the fifth game gave Fognini the opportunity to serve for the match, with the Italian converting his third match point to advance.
Coric was also aiming to reach his third Masters 1000 semi-final. The 22-year-old owns a 12-6 record at tour-level this year, which includes a run to the last four at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship (l. to Federer).