Are we witnessing a new Fabio Fognini at age 31?
The Italian won the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters on Sunday for his first ATP Masters 100 title, but refused to look too far ahead afterwards. Fognini proved this week that he can beat anyone in the world when he’s at his best, but quickly shook off expectations of him being a favourite to win on clay for the rest of the season.
“I’m thinking about Monte-Carlo at the moment because I would like to enjoy this trophy tonight with my family and friends. And then tomorrow is another week. It’s my mom’s birthday, so I would like to enjoy it,” he said. “I’m just thinking about the next tournament, the next match that I would like to play, and we will see if I’m in really good shape. You have to be lucky also in the draw. [It’s] a lot of things. But it’s not my problem right now, believe me.
“If I’m being honest, the favourite is still Rafael Nadal. I’m not the only one that says this. He’s won, I don’t know how many times, and he’s still the favourite every week that we play on this surface.”
His incredible week in Monte-Carlo seemed improbable at the start. Fognini arrived at this event with no wins over a player in the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings this season and an 0-4 record on clay. He trailed by a set and faced five break points for 1-5 in the second set of his opening-round match against Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev, but found a way to pull off a comeback win.
Buoyed by the victory and aided by a second-round walkover against Frenchman Gilles Simon, Fognini came alive. Wins over third seed Alexander Zverev of Germany and ninth seed Borna Coric of Croatia were the appetizer to his shocking semi-final upset of Nadal, which saw Fognini take 11 of the last 14 games against the Spaniard. Fognini capped off the tournament with another high-quality performance against Dusan Lajovic of Serbia for the title.
“The first match I was really lucky. Second one, also,” admitted Fognini. “And then I started to play great. I think I played really good with Sascha. It was really tough against Borna, because we played last and the weather was colder than normal.
“In the semi-final, I think I played my best tennis from the beginning to the end. With Rafa, everybody knows that you have to play really good in the beginning until the end. And today was the final. The most important thing was the cup.”
Fognini’s happiness off the court is translating into success on the court. He spoke highly of the stability that his wife, former US Open champion Flavia Pennetta, and their nearly two-year-old son, Federico, have brought into his life.
“I have everything in my life,” said Fognini. “I have a baby. I have a wife. They are with me all the time, so there’s nothing more to ask than that.”
The family support seemed to extend to the entire crowd inside Court Rainier III, who loudly cheered him on throughout his matches. Fognini was born 45 minutes away in Sanremo and practised at the tournament site growing up. He admitted that Monte-Carlo feels like his home tournament and made lifting the trophy even more surreal.
“Parents and friends, I don’t know how many tickets they got during the week,” he joked. “I think they feel happy now because I have my name on this tournament. It’s something that I’ve been dreaming of since I was really young.”