#NextGenATP Canadian is the 16th seed in Barcelona
#NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime is taking the ATP Tour by storm. Trips to the Rio de Janeiro final and Miami semi-finals have helped the 18-year-old climb from outside the Top 100 in the ATP Rankings in February into the Top 35.
Many teenagers would be wondering what they could do with the more than $650,000 Felix has earned so far this year. But his father Sam Aliassime, who began playing tennis with him at five, has something else in mind for his son, who is the 16th seed at this week’s Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.
“My dad messaged me the other day and said ‘I have three pieces of advice: Keep working hard, stay the same person and find a school’,” Auger-Aliassime said. “He wants me to go back to school, so I have to find an online school now. Having these kinds of people around you helps you stay the same person.
“I’m lucky to have great people around me. They’re always saying the right things and helping me do the right work.”
Expectations have followed Auger-Aliassime since he became the youngest player to win an ATP Challenger Tour match at 14. The top players in the sport — including Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev, the man who beat him in the second round at Monte-Carlo — have been touting his abilities. But the only person who has avoided the hype is Felix himself.
“I never expected that I was going to be here this early. That was always my dream and I’m still following it,” Auger-Aliassime said. “Even just a few months ago, I was trying to break into the Top 100 and maybe thinking about Top 50 at the end of the year. [It’s great] being in the Top 30, but there was also a lot of work put behind it. I’m just enjoying myself now.”
Felix will try to make his mark at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, an ATP 500 tournament in Spain. He will face German Philipp Kohlschreiber or Tunisian Malek Jaziri in his opening match, and could potentially play fourth seed and two-time champion Kei Nishikori in the third round.
“The draw is so strong that it’s a bit like an [ATP] Masters 1000 event. I would love to get through the first rounds here,” Auger-Aliassime said. “Being seeded for the first time is a bit different and a nice feeling, but I can’t focus too much on results because I don’t have my marks here. It’s a new tournament for me, so I just want to keep competing well and play my game.”
The 6’4” right-hander will take confidence from his recent consistency, winning at least two matches in each of his past four tournaments. Auger-Aliassime claimed his first win against a Top 10 opponent at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, where he defeated reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“It helped that I knew him from the juniors. For me to win that first match [against Tsitsipas on the ATP Tour] is important because it was a bit of a statement that we can also win and compete with these top guys,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It gave me confidence, but I’ve played him before, so it wasn’t a big surprise.”
Felix is not looking any further than the match in front of him. But with only 45 points to defend through Roland Garros, Auger-Aliassime has an opportunity to make even more noise.
Britain’s Fed Cup captain Anne Keothavong is “in awe” of her players after they won promotion to World Group II for the first time in 26 years.
Every match in their 3-1 play-off win over Kazakhstan in London was a nerve-shredding three-setter.
Katie Boulter was a set and break down before the decisive win over Zarina Diyas, and Johanna Konta trailed 4-1 in the third set against Yulia Putintseva.
“It was such an incredible effort,” Keothavong said.
“I am just totally in awe of these women.”
Boulter’s 6-7 (1-7) 6-4 6-1 triggered wild celebrations after Great Britain finally got themselves out of the third tier of women’s team tennis after four failures at the same stage in the previous seven years.
Keothavong, who played in two of those play-offs and captained the others, said the victory at the Copper Box Arena was “right up there” as one of her best achievements in tennis.
“I couldn’t get there as a player but to be able to captain this achievement and to finally achieve it together after so long is definitely a highlight for me,” she said.
“Watching the players develop and grow; watching Jo lead this team as the number one; playing a small part in something much bigger is a very proud moment for me.”
Konta, whose stunning 4-6 6-2 7-5 victory over Putintseva on Sunday had put Britain one win away from promotion, said she was “speechless” following the team’s triumph.
“I have dreamed of being a part of the team that was able to achieve this,” the world number 46 added.
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‘Springboard for bigger things’
Keothavong hopes Fed Cup success will provide a “springboard for bigger and better things” for 22-year-old Boulter.
The British number two was impressive on her debut at February’s Europe/Africa Zone round-robin event in Bath, winning all of her singles rubbers.
She held three match points against Kazakh number one Putintseva on Saturday although she eventually lost, but she picked herself up – despite a back problem – to win the tie with the comeback win over Diyas.
She has shot up the world rankings in the past year and is now ranked 86th after breaking into the top 100 in November.
And in January Boulter, alongside British team-mate Cameron Norrie, beat 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams and Frances Tiafoe in the mixed doubles at the Hopman Cup.
“For Katie, this can be used as a springboard for bigger and better things. The players need to use it in a positive way,” Keothavong said.
Boulter said she will learn from the experience, especially the defeat by Putintseva that she said at the time would stay in her mind “for a long time”.
“We all have good days and bad days but I will fight and get up for the next match no matter what the circumstances are,” Boulter said.
‘Utterly brilliant’, ‘inspired’, ‘an amazing achievement’ – reaction to the GB’s success
Former British number one Annabel Croft, now a television commentator and analyst: “Absolutely amazing weekend of tennis. Congrats to Johanna Konta, Katie Boulter, Anne Keothavong and the rest of the Fed Cup team. Inspired performances with home fans cheering at the Copper Box.
British doubles player Jamie Murray, who helped the nation win the Davis Cup in 2015: “What a weekend for the GB Fed Cup team! Amazing achievement girls!”
Leon Smith, Britain’s Davis Cup captain: “That was utterly brilliant from our GB Fed Cup Team. This team deserves so much praise. Well done all. Bring on the World Group! Come on!!”
Fognini Continues First-Time Masters 1000 Champion Trend In Monte-Carlo
Fognini is the eighth first-time Masters 1000 champ since 2017 Rome
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.
ATPTour.com takes a look back at the third ATP Masters 1000 event of the year
Sun, scenery and scintillating tennis. The Monte-Carlo Country Club once again played host to a perfect week of ATP Masters 1000 action. Plenty of riveting storylines and pulsating moments captured our attention. From early exits and jaw-dropping upsets to Fabio Fognini securing his first Masters 1000 shield, relive the best moments of the 2019 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters…
Fabio’s Maiden Moment: It was a moment that Fabio Fognini will never forget. On Sunday, the 31-year-old became the first Italian to win an ATP Masters 1000 title, securing the biggest victory of his career. Fognini was a force throughout the week in the Principality, stunning Alexander Zverev and Rafael Nadal, before stopping Dusan Lajovic in the championship.
Fognini is the eighth player to win his first Masters 1000 title over the past 17 events at the elite level. He rises to a career-high No. 12 in the ATP Rankings with the victory, becoming the first player to upset Nadal on clay en route to a title since Pablo Cuevas in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Read Report & Watch Final Highlights
Mektic/Skugor Make Masters 1000 History: For the first time since the introduction of the ATP Masters 1000 series in 1990, an all-Croatian doubles team has lifted a trophy. Nikola Mektic and Franko Skugor celebrated their first team title on the clay of Monte-Carlo.
It was a dramatic final victory for the Croatians, who rallied from a set down and saved a championship point to triumph 6-7(3), 7-6(3), 11-9 over Robin Haase and Wesley Koolhof. For Mektic, the win carried added significance considering he opened the Masters 1000 season with a title in Indian Wells, alongside Horacio Zeballos. The 30-year-old is now 3-0 in finals at the elite level, all with different partners.
Read Final Report
Dusan’s Dream: It was a ‘pinch me’ week for Lajovic, who streaked to his first ATP Tour title with aplomb. The Serbian did not drop a set en route to the championship, earning his first Top 5 win (d. Thiem) along the way. Despite falling in Sunday’s final, he will ascend 24 spots to a career-high No. 24 in the ATP Rankings.
The fact that Lajovic had been battling a blister on his toe all week, adds to the legend of his Monte-Carlo campaign. The World No. 48 defeated Malek Jaziri, David Goffin, Dominic Thiem, Lorenzo Sonego and Daniil Medvedev to record five straight tour-level victories for the first time in his career.
You May Also Like: Five Things To Know About Dusan Lajovic
Rafa Returns: Competing in his first tournament in one month, due to a right knee injury, Rafael Nadal streaked to the semi-finals at his happy hunting ground. The 11-time champion ousted Roberto Bautista Agut, Grigor Dimitrov and Guido Pella without dropping a set, before succumbing to Fognini on Saturday. It was just his fifth defeat at the Monte-Carlo Country Club and first to a player outside the Top 10 since 2003 (l. to Coria).
Read: Nadal’s Staggering Points Haul During Spring Clay Swing
Daniil’s Day: It was a week of upsets in the Principality. In addition to Fognini’s victories over Nadal and Zverev and Lajovic’s win over Thiem, Pierre-Hugues Herbert stunned 2018 finalist Kei Nishikori in the second round and Daniil Medvedev stopped top seed Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals. Medvedev earned his first win over a World No. 1 and the biggest win of his young career, breaking Djokovic five times for the 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 win. The tour-level match wins leader in 2019, the Russian would extend his record to 21-7, en route to his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final.
Read: Medvedev Upsets Djokovic In Monte-Carlo
Sonego’s Big Breakthrough: Qualifier Lorenzo Sonego turned in a Cinderella performance at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. The Italian reached his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final behind upsets of countryman Andreas Seppi, eighth seed Karen Khachanov and Cameron Norrie. He will ascend 30 spots in the ATP Rankings to a career-high No. 66.
Read: Sonego Stuns Khachanov
Marco’s Great Escape: It will go down as one of the great comebacks of the ATP Tour season. Marco Cecchinato had dropped the first eight games against Stan Wawrinka in their second-round meeting. But the Italian would not go down without a fight, storming back from 0-6, 0-2 down to prevail 0-6, 7-5, 6-3. His third-round finish matched his best result at an ATP Masters 1000 event.
Read: Cecchinato Completes Comeback
Pella Power: While Nadal lost to Fognini in the semi-finals, he was pushed to the limit by Guido Pella a day earlier. The Argentine broke the Spaniard on four occasions in the first set, but was unable to cross the finish line. It was an impressive week for Pella, who outlasted seventh seed Marin Cilic in the second round and Cecchinato in the third round.
Read: Pella Pushes Past Cilic
Showing Heart: When Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert hit his final forehand on Monday to defeat Fernando Verdasco, it was more than a typical victory; it was one full of emotion. The 28-year-old did not simply sign his name on the television camera, but he wrote ‘Notre Dame’ with a broken heart underneath it. Tragedy struck on Monday when the famous Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire, burning deep into the night.
And the fire did not just emotionally touch the Frenchmen playing in Monte-Carlo. Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal both saw the news and discussed their reactions with the assembled media…
Read & Watch Hot Shots: Herbert Upsets Nishikori Read: Herbert, Djokovic, Nadal & Other Stars Reflect On Notre-Dame
A Royal Visit: A select group of ATP stars had the privilege of being received by H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco at the Royal Palace. The Prince has long been an integral participant of the tournament, taking in the action every year and this year he welcomed Djokovic, Nadal, Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori, Marin Cilic, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Felix Auger-Aliassime, David Goffin and Mischa Zverev.
Read & Watch: Nadal, Djokovic & Co. Visit Royal Palace
The ATP Anagram Challenge: Jamie Murray and Kyle Edmund were put to the test both on and off the court in Monte-Carlo. Who won this round of the ATP Anagram Challenge?
ATP Stars Give Back: Former champion Stan Wawrinka and World No. 5 Thiem took the role of team captains in a fun-filled charity exhibition, benefiting the Monaco Red Cross. Alongside Wawrinka on his team of French-speaking players were Lucas Pouille, David Goffin and Medvedev. BNP Paribas Open champion Thiem was joined by Tsitsipas and Karen Khachanov.
Read: Wawrinka, Thiem Lead ATP Stars In Charity Exhibition
Italian downplays the hype after winning maiden ATP Masters 1000 crown
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.”
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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.”
Dusan Lajovic reflects on a breakthrough campaign in Monte-Carlo
It was a week Dusan Lajovic will never forget. Not even a toe blister could stop the Serbian from producing countless moments of magic, en route to his first ATP Tour final at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.
On Saturday, Lajovic exclaimed, “I’m going to cut that toe off if it means I can play tomorrow.”
Thankfully, the 28-year-old did not need to resort to extreme measures to face Fabio Fognini in the championship, and despite falling 6-3, 6-4, he believes it could be a career-altering experience. It’s not often that a first ATP Masters 1000 final is also a first tour-level final, and Lajovic knows a week like that could change everything.
You May Also Like: Five Things To Know About Dusan Lajovic
“It was my first time in a final, so a great experience for me,” said Lajovic. “It’s many more positives than negatives this week, so there is no reason to be sad even if I don’t feel as happy as the whole week today. But I know that it’s my best result, and I just hope that I can repeat this result in some other event, as well, in the future.
“Fabio is three years older than me, so he’s playing his best tennis right now. That’s also a good thing for me. I can see that it’s never too late. I’m happy for him that he won the title. On the other hand, I’m also happy that I had this experience this week and played a final at a Masters.”
The World No. 48 defeated Malek Jaziri, David Goffin, Dominic Thiem, Lorenzo Sonego and Daniil Medvedev to record five straight tour-level victories for the first time in his career. Not only did he secure his first win over a Top 5 opponent with a 6-3, 6-3 rout of Thiem, but he did not drop a set all week entering the final.
But, despite his great success, Lajovic’s date with destiny was put on hold. He was bidding to become the first player to win his maiden ATP Tour title at a Masters 1000 event since Albert Portas in Hamburg in 2001 and just the second Serbian to ever raise a Masters 1000 shield, joining Novak Djokovic. He admits that while his performance on Sunday was not good enough to lift the trophy, all credit goes to Fognini.
“I was feeling on the court that I had to work much harder than him to win the points,” added Lajovic. “I think this was the key. He was pretty stable and solid from both sides, moving well. And when I was on and when I was aggressive, I was able to make points and put him under pressure. But at times, my game was just off. I had a lot of unforced errors.
“I was under the pressure of the moment, and all together, I think he was much better player today. Congrats to him… He just knows how to play tennis on clay. And he beat Rafa yesterday in two sets, so he showed that he can produce top quality tennis. He deserved to win the title here.
“He was a couple times in a position where he was able to get some good results and break into the Top 10, so I think that this will be a huge boost, because he never won a Masters 1000 before. So I think if he keeps playing like this, for sure he’s gonna break into the Top 10.”
While Fognini is pushing towards the Top 10 breakthrough that Lajovic refers to, rising to a career-high No. 12 in the ATP Rankings, the Serbian is projected to enjoy a breakthrough of his own. He ascends 24 spots to a career-high No. 24 on Monday.
Lajovic is right back to work next week at the Hungarian Open in Budapest. He opens his campaign on Tuesday against wild card Mate Valkusz, with a potential second-round clash against countryman Laslo Djere in the cards.
Before they hit the tennis courts at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem hit the football field on Sunday to meet the players of FC Barcelona.
The second and third seeds at the ATP 500 event, respectively, toured the grounds of the Ciutat Esportiva. Gerard Pique and other team members promised to return the favour and visit the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona 1899 to catch the ATP Tour action this week.
“I think everyone who comes from Germany has to be a soccer fan,” joked Zverev. “[Meeting] some of the players was very exciting. This is one of the best clubs in the world, so to see how they function and see the practice grounds was amazing.”
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Thiem was among the players who attended Saturday’s league game between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad. They also had the chance to meet the club’s president, Josep Maria Bartomeu.
“I love football and I just met some of the best players in the world. They’re all really nice,” said Thiem. “It was good to experience the practice grounds and the game yesterday, so it couldn’t be better for a football fan like me.”
Zverev will start his week against Nicolas Jarry of Chile or Marcel Granollers of Spain, while Thiem begins his Barcelona campaign against Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan or Diego Schwartzman of Argentina.
Italy’s Fabio Fognini won a Masters 1000 event for the first time with a straight-sets victory over Dusan Lajovic at the Monte Carlo Masters.
Fognini, 31, beat Serbia’s Lajovic 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 38 minutes.
World number 18 Fognini entered the Monte Carlo Masters on a five-match losing streak but beat Alexander Zverev, Borna Coric and 11-time winner Rafael Nadal en route to the final.
“It was really tough, Dusan played an unbelievable week,” Fognini said.
Lajovic made the better start, breaking Fognini’s serve early on but the Italian fought back, breaking twice to take a 4-2 lead in the opening set.
Serving for the set, he saved a break point before a backhand down the line gave him the lead.
Both players had their serves broken in the first two games of the second set, but despite receiving treatment on ankle and hamstring niggles, it was Fognini who went on to dominate, serving out the match.
Fognini becomes the first Italian to win a Masters 1000 singles title and is the oldest Monte Carlo champion in the open era.
He is the first Italian to take the Monte Carlo crown since Nicola Pietrangeli in 1968 and will rise to number 12 in the world rankings.
Fabio Fognini became the first Italian to win an ATP Masters 1000 title on Sunday at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, defeating Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 38 minutes.
“I’m really, really happy. Nothing to say,” Fognini said. “I have to keep calm, maybe take a shower, relax, and think about this because it’s something incredible.”
The 13th seed converted four of five break points to become the lowest seeded player to lift the trophy since fellow No. 13 seed Gustavo Kuerten’s title run in 1999. Fognini will rise to a career-high No. 12 when the latest ATP Rankings are published on Monday.
“I was preparing for the match as best I can because he has my ex-coach and I knew it was going to be really tough, a lot of running,” Fognini said. “[It’s an] incredible achievement. I’m really, really happy.”
Fognini’s title in the Principality comes after a difficult start to the season. The nine-time tour-level titlist entered the Monte-Carlo Country Club with one win in his eight most recent tour-level encounters and had lost each of his four matches on clay this year.
Fognini’s journey to the trophy was packed with drama. The 31-year-old recovered from 4-6, 1-4 down in his first-round match against Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev and also overturned a 1-6, 0-2 deficit against Borna Coric in the quarter-finals.
Alongside comeback victories against Rublev and Coric, Fognini also defeated two Top 5 opponents in straight sets this week. The Italian upset World No. 3 Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals and stunned 11-time champion Rafael Nadal in the last four. Fognini is the first player to defeat Nadal en route to a clay-court title since Pablo Cuevas’s triumph at the Rio Open presented by Claro in 2016.
After dropping his second service game on Court Rainier III, Fognini levelled the opening set at 2-2 with precision and power. The Italian flattened his backhand to push Lajovic behind the baseline and, following a well-placed drop shot, levelled the match with a forehand volley into the open court. Fognini moved into a 4-2 lead following multiple unforced errors from his opponent and grabbed the opening set after 44 minutes with his 12th winner of the set; a perfectly-timed backhand up the line.
With his forehand proving to be a key factor in his semi-final win against Nadal, Fognini continued to enjoy success from that wing early in the opening stages of the second set. Fognini broke for a 3-2 lead with great defensive skill, retrieving balls from behind the baseline to extend points and extract errors from his opponent. The 31-year-old maintained his advantage through to 5-4 and served with confidence to claim the title, converting his second match point as Lajovic mistimed his forehand return.
As the lowest-ranked Monte-Carlo finalist since Hicham Arazi in 2001, Lajovic was bidding to become the first unseeded player to win in Monte-Carlo since Thomas Muster in 1992. The World No. 48 did not drop a set en route to his first ATP Tour final, defeating Malek Jaziri, David Goffin, Dominic Thiem, Lorenzo Sonego and Daniil Medvedev to record five straight tour-level victories for the first time in his career.
Fognini earns 1000 ATP Rankings points and receives €958,055 in prize money. Lajovic gains 600 points and €484,950 for his run to the championship match.
Did You Know? 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.