Fabio Fognini, recently a finalist on the ATP Tour, has been ranked in the Top 50 for men’s tennis since the September 24th, 2012 rankings. However it’s only been in the last couple of years that the Italian has started ranking consistently in the Top 25, having only dipped below that on a few occasions. Rarely a player to make noise against the best players in the world, perhaps Fognini’s recent defeat of Rafael Nadal in Rio means that the Italian is finally ready for the Top 10.
Firstly, let’s back up to the start of the 2014 season.
At that time Fognini, having won both Hamburg and Stuttgart in 2013, was ranked 16th in the world entering the 2014 Australian Open. The Italian lived up to his billing in that tournament, making the event’s fourth round before bumping into Novak Djokovic.
A small win streak soon followed Melbourne Park 2014 as Fognini won two Davis Cup matches for Italy before running the tables at ATP Vina del Mar, a 250-series event in Chile (clay). Fognini also placed well in Buenos Aires 2014 (clay/runnerup), Munich 2014 (clay/runnerup), and Cincinnati 2014 (hard/quarterfinals). Those results helped him stay in the Top 20 on tour for the entire 2014 season, with the exception of only the August 11th rankings.
However despite Fognini’s success in 2014 there’s a couple of things missing from his resume, two things that I think are closely related: Fognini had no ATP tournament wins over players ranked in the Top 10 and, not surprisingly, he had no deep runs in Grand Slam events. The Italian did beat Andy Murray in 2014 at a time when the Scot was ranked 8th in the world however that was in Davis Cup play as opposed to the regular straight elimination tournaments. By and large, Fognini made his ascension to the World No. 13 position in weak tournaments or with lucky draws.
In fact, it can be shown that some of Fognini’s largest successes to date on tour have been in tournaments where he’s ended up with several rounds of uncharacteristically weak competition.
As an example he made his deepest run in a Grand Slam at Roland Garros 2011, a tournament where he made the quarters. Usually if you are an unseeded player entering a Grand Slam, as Fognini was at the 2011 French Open, you will likely have to beat one, if not two, strong players to make the final eight. However en route to that finish, Fognini did not have to beat any player ranked higher than 33rd in the world. It might seem a little cynical to say that that’s why he made the final eight at Roland Garros 2011 but then that’s what the evidence suggests.
Fognini is 0-7 against Djokovic, he’s 0-3 against Roger Federer, and the current World No. 22 is 0-8 against David Ferrer.
Fognini may have won Stuttgart in 2013 but the best player he beat was a declining and 11th ranked Tommy Haas. Fognini may have won Hamburg shortly thereafter but again, an aging Haas was the highest ranked player the Italian drew. In the final of that event, Fognini was gifted an opponent ranked outside of the Top 100 on tour and a similar thing happened in the ATP Vina del Mar 2014 draw. Usually in tournament finals, even ones that are in 250 or 500 series events, you have to beat a reasonably proven player.
Finding a time when Fognini had beaten a strong player in an ATP event was hard to do before this past weekend. Fognini, at this time last week, was 0-4 against Nadal; Italy’s top player is 1-4 now thanks to a semifinal comeback on Saturday.
Does that one win mean that Fognini has elevated his game?
Personally, I’ll need a bit more consistency before I believe that Fognini will make the Top 10. I remain skeptical of him as I think the defeat of Nadal had more to do with the Spaniard than it had to do with the Italian. Nadal’s slipping and maybe Fognini is just a little better than he was before.
Time will tell as it always does but I don’t see Fognini beating Djokovic, Federer, Murray, or Ferrer this season. Maybe he’ll get some lucky draws just as any player could but my 2015 projection for a healthy Fognini is a year-high somewhere between 12th and 16th.