Italian Fabio Fognini earned his biggest win of the season Wednesday evening when he defeated Scot Andy Murray at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
It has been a struggle to begin 2023 for the former Top 10 star, who arrived at the Foro Italico with a 2-8 tour-level record. But the wild card thrilled the Rome crowd with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory to reach the second round after two hours and 54 minutes.
“For sure I’m happy because coming back from injury is never easy, especially at our age. But winning here in Rome against a really big player like Andy, I mean I’m happy,” Fognini said in his on-court interview. “Now it’s important to recover and let’s see how I recover and I wake up tomorrow because it’s going to be tricky and a nice question to my mind if I will recover well. But I just want to enjoy this night and going home with this victory.”
The veterans entered the match having split their first eight ATP Head2Head clashes. This was their first meeting since 2019 in Shanghai, where Fognini won a final-set tie-break. They played at the Foro Italico in 2017, when Murray was the No. 1 player in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Fognini emerged victorious in straight sets on that occasion.
The Rome ATP Masters 1000 event has not always been Fognini’s best tournament (14-15 record), but he has often found magic on home soil against Murray, whom he has defeated in all three of their showdowns in Italy.
It was clear from the early moments of Wednesday’s match that it would turn into a battle of wills. Both men worked hard for every point, with the first six games taking 48 minutes and the first set lasting 73 minutes.
In the early stages, Fognini showed his intent to try to control play and prevent Murray from weaving his tricky strategic web from the baseline. The Italian broke serve on his sixth opportunity and surged through the rest of the set against last week’s Aix-en-Provence ATP Challenger Tour 175 champion.
As the match wore on, Murray appeared to try to take the initiative, and he took a 5-1 lead in the second set. But even then, Fognini refused to allow the in-form Scot to walk into a decider, getting back on serve before relinquishing the set.
The key in the third set was Fognini’s dominance in his service games, losing just three points on serve throughout the set. Murray let slip a break immediately by missing a short forehand wide, and was never able to recover.
“I was feeling really good at the beginning of the clay in Estoril, I was playing great. But I got injured and I stopped like a month, I was 10 days with the crutches,” Fognini said. “These kind of matches give me a lot of emotions and really good memories.”
In the same section of the draw, #NextGenATP Frenchman Arthur Fils earned his first ATP Masters 1000 main draw win when he defeated fellow qualifier Juan Manuel Cerundolo of Argentina 6-1, 1-6, 6-4.
Photo: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
Fils ousted Fognini in the final round of qualifying at last year’s Rolex Paris Masters before losing in a rematch with the Italian in the first round of the main draw. They will meet again in Rome if they both reach the third round.
Fils will face a stiff challenge from seventh seed Holger Rune, who lifted the trophy last year at Paris-Bercy. Fognini will face 30th seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia.
Did You Know?
Fognini is at No. 130 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. In April the Italian slipped from the world’s Top 100 for the first time since 2009.