Monte Carlo | Fognini downs Zverev as more seeds tumble
For the top two players at the Monte Carlo Master it was business as usual as they both reached the quarter-finals on their way to their expected clash in Sunday’s final. However, when it came to the third seeded player the story was different, albeit it continued the poor run of results which the German Alexander Zverev had posted in recent months.
On this occasion it was Fabio Fognini who delivered the stunning defeat by inflicting a 7-6(6) 6-1 loss to join the likes of Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas who also suffered unexpected losses in the last 16.
Whiles Zverev continues to struggle to find some form, the usually fragile Fognini showed none of the traits which tend to mar his matches.
Solid with both the first and second serves throughout the 90-minutes they were on court, the flamboyant Italian lost 18 points in ten service games, facing only one break point while continually keeping the pressure on his higher ranked opponent.
Hitting just 11 winners and making 25 unforced errors, Zverev was well below his usual standard of play.
“I’m really happy,” Fognini said. “Happy because I was always losing with him, but it was also a really tough match. He’s No. 3 in the world, even if he’s [not] playing his best tennis. I’m really happy.”
Earlier in the day, top seeded Novak Djokovic and the 11-time Monte Carlo champion, Rafa Nadal, dominated their respective matches to progress through to the last eight.
Djokovic defeated the American Taylor Fritz 6-3 6-0 defeat of Taylor Fritz as he continued his run for a third title in the Principality with a steady performance helped by his opponent’s 30 unforced errors in 68 minutes.
“It was very challenging to play in these (windy) conditions,” Djokovic said. “Taylor just flattens the ball. We had five, six close games in the first set, I just managed to break his resistance midway through.
“After that, things went on my side and I felt more comfortable. This was one of these days where you just have to hang in there and try to put an extra ball back in the court — that was enough.”
Daniil Medvedev awaits the world No.1 in the next round, the Russian, seeded 10, having overcome one of the runners for the title, the sixth seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-2 1-6 6-4, for a fourth time in as many meetings.
“This was a great achievement for me,” Medvedev said. “Everything was perfect today.”
Ranked a career-high 14th, Medvedev credits his rising form to a renewed dedication to the sport. “I’ve been working hard for the past 18 months — since before the start of 2018. I’ve dedicated my life to tennis, which I did not do before,” he affirmed having converted his third match point after one-hour and three-quarters of play.
Meanwhile Nadal, the defending champion, repeated last year’s semi-final win over Grigor Dimitrov, beating the Bulgarian for the 12th time, 6-4 6-1.
“I’m very, very happy, this is an important victory for me,” the second seed said after winning his 23rd consecutive set at the tournament and recording his 70th win for only 4 losses throughout his time at the event.
“Grigor is a super talent and is very dangerous. It was a positive match for me. I had a good day, I can be happy with what I did on court.
“When you don’t play on clay for almost a year, every win is important for the confidence, especially as I’m coming back from injury.”
Nadal faces next, Guido Pella, who defeated Italy’s Marco Cecchinato 6-4 4-6 6-4 but there was better news for the Italian contingent with qualifier Lorenzo Sonego defeating Britain’s No.2 Cameron Norrie, 6-2 7-5.
Competing in only his fourth Masters event, Sonego has been on fire so far this week and there was nothing Norrie could do to stop him, with the Italian losing just 13 points in ten service games, saving two out of three break points while continually pressing his British opponent.
Sonego struck 20 winners and made 17 unforced errors as against Norrie’s 16-30 ratio.
Following Fognini’s success later in the day, Italy have two players in the last eight for the first time since 2005 when Andreas Seppi and Filippo Volandri made the quarters at Hamburg.
The 9th seed Borna Coric is through to his seventh Masters quarter-final, toppling Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4 6-2 in an hour and 41-minutes, saving all three break points he faced and seizing three breaks of serve.
Fabio Fognini awaits Coric next and he will have a chance to avenge the one defeat he has suffered in their single previous match.
“Coric is a really good fighter. He fights a lot. He won so many matches last year,” Fognini said when looking ahead to Friday’s match. “I have to be happy for sure and enjoy my match from tonight, recover well – that’s the most important thing – and try my best.”
Finally Dusan Lajovic powered his way into Friday’s play by dismissing the fourth seeded Dominic Thiem 6-3 6-3.