Tue, Apr 23, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Fognini realizes boyhood dream to win Monte Carlo

AFP, MONTE CARLO

Italy’s Fabio Fognini kisses the trophy after winning the Monte Carlo Masters final against Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic in Monaco on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Colorful Fabio Fognini on Sunday defeated Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-4 to win the Monte Carlo Masters, the first Italian to triumph at the clay-court showpiece in more than half a century.

The 13th seed, based just 20km over the border in San Remo, Italy, followed on from compatriot Nicola Pietrangeli, who watched his record fall from the royal box at the Monte Carlo Country Club.

Pietrangeli won the trophy in the principality in 1961, 1967 and 1968.

He came to the court after the trophy ceremony to pose for pictures with his new tennis heir, who was following up his shock semi-final win over 11-time Monte Carlo champion Rafael Nadal.

“I was born nearby, so this is extraordinary,” Fognini, 31, said. “I started the season rather badly, so this is unbelievable. I’m very content with this victory, especially with all of the Italians here today.”

The 48th-ranked Lajovic of Serbia was playing in the first ATP final of his career and got to the title match without the loss of a set.

Fognini looked to be temporarily hampered as he limped momentarily after breaking Lajovic for 3-2 in the second set after claiming the opening set in 44 minutes.

During a medical timeout, he was taped on his right thigh and a heel, but carried on without apparent problems, as he finished the final on his second match point when Lajovic returned long.

The winner of his first Masters 1000 trophy came to the first major week of the pre-Roland Garros run-up with a 0-4 record on clay, the surface he grew up on.

Among his victims this week was No. 3 Alexander Zverev, and his stunning 6-4, 6-2 victory over Nadal on Saturday to end the Spanish star’s 25-set winning streak in the principality.

“This is something — just incredible,” added Fognini, who had been a set and 4-1 down to Andrey Rublev in his tournament opener. “I’m really tired now. I’ve been running all week. I prepared for this final as best I could. I knew it would be tough.”

“This is a great achievement, but it’s tough to beat Rafa [Rafael Nadal] and then play a final,” he added.

Lajovic was playing his first career ATP final and was far from crushed by the defeat.

“It was my first time in the finals, so a great experience for me. Today was not easy. There was a lot of wind,” Lajovic said.

“Fabio is a guy who knows how to play in these conditions. He has great hands, he’s moving really well,” he added.

Fognini might have once been thrown out of the US Open for a misogynistic attack on a female umpire and indulged in a blistering rant at tennis’ next generation, but he insists his bad boy image is now a thing of the past.

“I have everything in my life. I’m healthy, I have a baby, I have a wife,” he said.

Courtside at the final was his wife Flavia Pennetta, a former US Open champion toward whom he spent the week happily blowing kisses while shaping hearts with his hands during breaks in play.

Fognini married Pennetta in 2016 and one year later they became parents to baby son, Frederico.

Now a model family man, Fognini is concentrating more on his tennis than his temper.

“They are with me all the time,” said Fognini of his family.

“You feel happy because when you do your work and you do it great and win. I have to be happy,” he said.

The new family-friendly version of Fognini even came back onto court on Sunday nearly an hour after his win to meet with cheering ballboys and ballgirls, who engulfed him in a mass hug.

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