It wasn’t going to be easy playing the tricky Italian Fabio Fognini as Kyle Edmund discovered. Wearing his scarlet outfit with a lightning-flash both front and back and a headband bearing a skull, the piratical appearance of the Italian No.1 ranked just behind Edmund in world ranking terms, produced his usual bag of tricks to end the British No.1s run at the French Open.
I had break points in the fifth, just couldn’t get them, and when he had his break points he obviously did. The margin is always very small. And I have won some tight matches this year for sure and this one is a close one I have lost. Kyle Edmund
But he didn’t have it all his own way, but that wasn’t unusual. Fognini’s performances tend to dip in and out but what was different on this occasion is that he retained his focus when it mattered, in the fifth set having recovered from being two sets to one down.
He dropped serve in his opening game and virtually immediately after that, the match was halted for eight minutes when a spectator was taken ill high up in the stands of the Court Suzanne Lenglen.
There were more delays with bathroom breaks and medical time outs as the match progressed with both players gaining the initiative at various periods. But it was Edmund who finally capitulated 6-3 4-6 3-6 6-4 6-4 bringing to an end what has been a good run throughout the clay court season. During the last few weeks he has made the Marrakesh final and scored wins over Novak Djokovic and David Goffin.
“You can’t expect to play at Mach 10 all the time and hit the highs,” Edmund said. “It’s unrealistic to think that, that you’re going to play at your best all the time, so you have to deal with what you have. Some parts today I was pretty good and some parts today I gave away.
“I had break points in the fifth, just couldn’t get them, and when he had his break points he obviously did. The margin is always very small. And I have won some tight matches this year for sure and this one is a close one I have lost.”
Fognini proved to be too crafty and too experienced on clay for the Briton who happens to like playing on the ‘red dirt’.
The two players attacked each other in the opening set with Fognini emerging on top by keeping Edmund on the baseline nd playing off his back foot.
In the second set it was Edmund who took command stringing 16 consecutive points together as Fognini floundered. The Briton was settling in nicely but then he called the trainer for treatment to his left hip.
Fortunately it didn’t break his rhythm and he claimed the second and third sets before Fognini started to make any inroads into his game having also received medical attention to have his left ankle strapped. He went on to level the match and then take the deciding fifth set after three and half hours.
Edmund only recorded 27 winners during that time while his opponent put away 41 with his touch and angles, as well as drives, to eventually overwhelm the 16th seeded Brit.
“Finally, finally we are here,” Fognini said following his victory. “Probably my experience (was the difference). The last game I played good. I played everything on the other court, and he missed a few balls.”
Meanwhile Edmund, trying to hide his disappointment, said: “You have to say it’s a positive in the fact that it’s my best sort of clay court run this year. I have had some good wins recently in the Masters and it wasn’t a bad tournament here, a couple of good wins and a tough loss against a quality player, and reached my first final. So you have to say I have won more matches this year on the clay than I have before. You have to say I’m improving.
“Obviously now the attention goes into the grass and what I learned from last year, and how I can get better in that way.”
After taking time off for a welcome rest, his plans are to resume battle on the grass courts of Queen’s at the Fever-Tree Championships warm-up tournament for Wimbledon, where he will be seeded for the first time. He will be carrying British hopes in the possible absence of Andy Murray who has still to make an appearance on court following his lengthy absence recovering from his hip operation.
“It means that I’m going in the right direction that people maybe expect me to do better,” he said. “I always do my best. That’s all I can say. It’s no different there [at Wimbledon]. I’m going to do the best I can. Whatever happens, happens.”
He then quipped: “It’s nice, maybe you know you’re not going to play Roger (Federer) first round!”.