Fabio Fognini made history on Sunday, winning the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters to become the first Italian to lift an ATP Masters 1000 singles trophy. Fognini is the eighth player to win his first Masters 1000 title over the past 17 events at the elite level. In the 92 ATP Masters 1000 events prior to 2017 Rome, only eight players won their first Masters 1000 crown.
The 31-year-old fell behind an early break in the final against Dusan Lajovic, but he would break the Serbian’s serve four times to triumph after one hour and 38 minutes. Andrey Rublev led the 13th seed 6-4, 4-1 in the first round, but Fognini rallied to complete the best week of his career.
Four of the seven players who have won their maiden crown at this level since the 2017 Internazionali BNL d’Italia went on to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time that same season.
ATPTour.com looks at the recent first-time Masters 1000 winners…
Alexander Zverev (2017 Rome)
Alexander Zverev had just turned 20 when he reached his first ATP Masters 1000 final at the 2017 Internazionali BNL d’Italia. But the German looked like a veteran in defeating second seed Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3.
Zverev became the youngest Rome champion since a 19-year-old Rafael Nadal triumphed in 2006 and the youngest Masters 1000 winner since a 19-year-old Djokovic lifted the Miami trophy in 2007. He has since won two more Masters 1000 titles.
“I’m very happy with the way I played and my performance all week, I think today was one of the best matches I ever played,” said Zverev. “I knew I had to be aggressive from the first point to the last. It was very important for me to be able to stay this aggressive and not let him take over the game.”
Grigor Dimitrov (2017 Cincinnati)
Grigor Dimitrov’s maiden Masters 1000 moment came in the midst of his best season to date. The Bulgarian, at 26, beat Aussie Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-5 to win the Western & Southern Open.
Dimitrov did not lose a set all tournament, becoming the first player to do so and win his first Masters 1000 trophy since Djokovic at Miami in 2007. Dimitrov, who won 52 of his 53 service games, would go on to capture his biggest crown yet at the Nitto ATP Finals three months later.
Jack Sock (2017 Paris)
In the first round of the 2017 Rolex Paris Masters, Kyle Edmund led Jack Sock 5-1 in the third set. But Sock found a way to dig out of that hole and advance, and he never looked back. The American defeated Filip Krajinovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 in the championship match to win his first Masters 1000 title.
Entering the week, Sock was 24th in the ATP Race To London. But the triumph earned him his first singles qualification for the Nitto ATP Finals, and also propelled him into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time.
“There have been a lot of firsts,” Sock said during the trophy ceremony. “It started at the French Open with my first fourth round of a Slam, now I’ve won my first Masters 1000 in Paris, this will be my first time in the Top 10 and this will be the first time making the year-end [Nitto ATP] Finals. So there’s a lot going on right now emotionally and I can’t wait to enjoy it all with my team.”
Juan Martin del Potro (2018 Indian Wells)
Juan Martin del Potro is the lone Grand Slam singles champion from this group. But entering last year’s BNP Paribas Open, the Argentine had never won a Masters 1000 crown. Three times previously — at 2009 Montreal (l. to Murray), 2013 Indian Wells (l. to Nadal), and 2013 Shanghai (l. to Djokovic) — Del Potro fell just one win short.
Roger Federer, who was 17-0 on the year, had three championship points to prevent the ‘Tower of Tandil’ from changing that in the final. But nothing could stop Del Potro, as he played courageous tennis to stun Federer 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-6(2) in what was one of the best matches of the 2018 ATP Tour season.
John Isner (2018 Miami)
John Isner arrived at the 2018 Miami Open presented by Itau with a 2-6 record on the season, looking to gain some form. He did more than that in South Beach, rallying to defeat Alexander Zverev 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4 for the title. The American, who was 32 years, 11 months old at the time, became the oldest first-time Masters 1000 champion in the history of the series (since 1990).
The fourth time was the charm for Isner, who finished runner-up at 2012 Indian Wells (l. to Federer), 2013 Cincinnati (l. to Nadal) and 2016 Paris (l. to Murray). Isner used this victory as a springboard, ultimately qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time.
Karen Khachanov (2018 Paris)
Djokovic entered the 2018 Rolex Paris Masters final on a 22-match winning streak, poised to tie Nadal’s record of 33 ATP Masters 1000 trophies. But Russian Karen Khachanov earned the biggest title of his career, shocking the Serbian 7-5, 6-4 for his maiden Masters 1000 moment.
Khachanov’s triumph was the last of four consecutive wins against Top 10 players in the ATP Rankings (Isner, Zverev, Thiem and Djokovic), and it would send him to a year-end finish of 11th, his career-best.
Dominic Thiem(2019 Indian Wells)
It was not surprising that Thiem won a Masters 1000 tournament. But it is safe to say that nobody expected the Austrian’s maiden moment to come on a hard court. In fact, he had never advanced past the quarter-finals of the BNP Paribas Open.
But the 25-year-old put together a stunning performance to defeat Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the final, earning just his second Top 5 victory on hard courts. Thiem’s effort helped him match his career-high of No. 4 in the ATP Rankings. He was also the first Austrian Masters 1000 winner since Thomas Muster at 1997 Miami.