Fabio Fognini has just lifted his first master’s 1000 title having overcome Serbian Dusan Lajovic in Monte Carlo. But who exactly is Fognini?
Fognini was born in 1987 in Sanremo, a city on the Mediterranean coast of Northern Italy, known for one of the most iconic European music festivals. His parents were Silvana and Fulvio – neither of whom were known for their sporting ability. Despite this, aged just four, Fognini wielded a tennis racket for the first time and hasn’t looked back since.
The dream of a professional career became reality in 2004 and just one year later Fognini bagged his first tournament success as he came out on top winning a Futures title in Spain and following that up with another victory in his native Italy. The homecoming wasn’t all bright and breezy though as he also found himself runner up in another Italian clash. A whirlwind couple of years was soon complete as Fognini qualified and then subsequently made his debut on the ATP World Tour. Despite crashing out in round one – to Carlos Moya, who went on to win the tournament hosted in Buenos Aires – Fognini, still a teenager at the time, had the taste and wanted more.
2007 saw Fognini sneak into the Top 100. The journey began with qualification to his first ever grand slam – the French Open – but another early exit, a defeat over five sets to Juan Monaco of Argentina, poured cold water on any plans he had of making a name for himself. Thankfully, qualification to the Rogers Masters gave him another opportunity to showcase his skills and a second-round victory over Briton Andy Murray went some way to do that and also earned him a mouth-watering tie with Roger Federer.
He lost, but people were watching. His appearances in the ‘big time’ along with some solid performances – both in singles and doubles – on the Challenger tour saw Fognini end the year ranked 94 in the world.
Over the next few years Fognini continued to make quiet and steady progress as he moved deeper into tournaments – reaching the quarterfinals of the 2011 French Open, where he sadly had to pull out of a match with Novak Djokovic on doctors advice, was a highlight perhaps only second to his 2015 doubles triumph (with Simone Bolelli) at the Australian Open – a 6-4 6-4 win over French duo Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. During this time Fognini started to establish himself as a ‘clay player’ and a trio of victories over the legend Rafael Nadal started to make people sit up and pay attention.
Fast forward two years though and things weren’t so rosy. Nadal would have his revenge in Miami as Fognini fell to a semi-final defeat in straight sets. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the low point of 2017 as a first-round defeat in the US Open saw a tirade of abuse directed at the female umpire who called the match. A fine and suspension promptly followed.
If 2017 was a year to forget then 2018 was one to remember. First Fognini turned around a final match with Frenchman Nicolas Jarry to win the Brazil Open before going on to beat Jarry’s compatriot Richard Gasquet to add the Swedish title to his bag. Fognini wasn’t done there though and clinched a hat-trick of titles overcoming South American Juan Martin del Potro to win the Los Cabos crown in Mexico.
That brings us to the current day, where Fognini has just joined an elite four man club who can boast to have beaten the great Nadal three times on clay – the latest being the victory that set up Fognini’s final tie with Lajovic; a match up Fognini won to clinch his ninth career title and move him up to 12th in the rankings. Fognini has been around a while and whilst he’s a dark horse at best for a grand slam singles win, it would be foolish move to write off a man with the credentials and experience that he possesses.