MONTE CARLO, April 21, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
When Fabio Fognini won the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters title Sunday, beating Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, 6-3, 6-4, not only did he become the first Italian to win an ATP Masters 1000 title – the biggest singles title by an Italian man since Adriano Panatta won the French Open in 1976 – but it became only the third biggest trophy in his household. After all, Fognini’s wife, Flavia Pennetta – herself a pretty good tennis player before she retired – lifted trophies for winning the U.S. Open singles in 2015 and the Australian Open doubles (with Gisela Dulko) in 2011.
After an hour and 38 minutes, Fognini was nearly speechless when it came time for the trophy presentation. However, he let his emotions flow and his personality shine, basking in the glow of Court Rainier III. While Fognini’s roar could at times blanket the Principality of Monaco, on Sunday it was his smile that beamed across the expansive Monte-Carlo Country Club overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
“I’m really, really happy. Nothing to say,” said Fognini, 31, who converted four of his five break-point opportunities against the No. 48 Lajovic and became the second No. 13 seed to win Monte-Carlo – and the first since Gustavo Kuerten in 1999. “I have to keep calm, maybe take a shower, relax, and think about this because it’s something incredible.”
With his victory, which was Fognini’s first ATP Tour title of the year, he will move up to a career-high No. 12 when the ATP Rankings are updated on Monday. En route to winning the title, Fognini won consecutive matches over Alexander Zverev, Borna Coric and 11-time Monte-Carlo champion Rafael Nadal. Fognini became the first player to beat Nadal en route to achieving a clay-court title since 2016, when Pablo Cuevas won the Rio Open.
🏆 CAMPIONE! 🇮🇹
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) 21. April 2019
Looking back, Fognini won his last six sets this week and now has won six consecutive matches, which improved his win-loss record to 9-8 this year. It’s a pretty incredible turnaround to his 2019 season, in which Fognini arrived a week ago at Monte-Carlo with just one win in his eight most recent tour-level events and had lost each of his four clay-court matches.
“I just feel happy because I won a big tournament that was always my goal in my career,” said Fognini, who outpointed Lajovic 69-56 in the championship match. “I think everybody, when you’re growing up and you start and you decide to play tennis, you are dreaming to win a big tournament. We are talking about a Masters (1000).”
Meanwhile, in reaching his first ATP Tour final, Lajovic did not drop a set against unseeded Malek Jaziri of Tunisia, No. 16 seed David Goffin of Belgium, No. 4 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria, qualifier Lorenzo Sonego of Italy and No. 10 seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia. It was the first time for the Serbian to win five straight tour-level matches in his career. With his surprising Monte-Carlo run, Lajovic will move up to No. 25 in the new rankings.
During his press conference, as quoted by the ATP website, the 28-year-old Lajovoic gave due props to Fognini. He said, “Fabio is a guy who knows how to play in these conditions. He has great hands. He’s moving really well. So I was feeling on the court that I had to work much harder than him to win the points. 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. One thing was that it was windy. The other thing was I was under the pressure of the finals of the moment, and all together, I think he was the much better player today.”
In winning the 113th edition of the Monte-Carlo Masters (and the 11th sponsored by Rolex), Fognini received first-prize money of €958,055 plus 1,000 ATP Rankings points, while Lajovic received €484,950 in earnings and 600 rankings points.
Mektic and Skugor win doubles title
No. 7 seeds Nikola Mektic and Franko Skugor, both of Croatia, saved a championship point and pulled out a 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3), 11-9 win over Robin Haase and Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands, to lift the Monte-Carlo doubles trophy on Sunday.
After trailing 9-8 and facing a championship point, Mektic and Skugor won the last three points of the two hour and three minute match on Court Rainier III.
“It feels amazing. I knew we could do really well because we did already in the past, not having too many matches together, but we still had great results like the semifinal at Wimbledon,” said Skugor, a member of the Croatian Davis Cup team. “But it is our first week since we decided to play together again and winning a Masters 1000 is just an amazing feeling.”
Mektic, 30, is no stranger to tour-level doubles finals. He’s played in 12 of them and lifted seven trophies, including three ATP Masters 1000 titles in the past year with three different partners.
Skugor, 31, a five-time tour-level titlist, has won doubles trophies in consecutive weeks after teaming with Jurgen Melzer of Austria to win at the Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech last week.
“It is definitely the biggest title for me and one of the best moments on court,” said Skugor. “It was a really tough match and not the perfect conditions to play, but still, winning such an event is just an amazing feeling.”
Mektic and Skugor earned 1,000 ATP Doubles Ranking points and split €284,860 in prize money while Haase and Koolhof collected 600 points and will share €139,020.