The men’s draw at the Rome Masters’ got underway despite some irritating rain disruptions which failed to disrupt the day’s schedule which included the two Brits in the top half, namely Andy Murray and Kyle Edmund who both suffered defeats on their first appearance at this year’s Internazionali BNL D’Italia.
Now it’s important to recover. 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 Fabio Fognini
Edmund’s challenge was first up and was short lived as he crashed out following an indifferent performance to Frenchman Alexandre Muller after just 62-minutes 6-1 6-3 and misses the opportunity of facing Britain’s No.1 Cameron Norrie, the 13th seed, in the next round.
Murray on the other hand, fought for just under three hours to try and get past the flamboyant Italian Fabio Fognini playing thanks to a wildcard, as, for the first time in 14 years, he has fallen out of the top 100.
Fognini, a former world No.7 delighted the home crowd at the Foro Italic by recovering to edge out the former world No.1, Murray, 6-4 4-6 6-4 in what was a battle of 35-year-olds.
The pair have played against each other eight times prior to this meeting and this win, the Italian’s third of the season, edges him ahead in their personal head-to-head record.
“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,” said Fognini, who has been troubled by a foot injury.
“Now it’s important to recover. 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.”
Next up for Fognini is a clash with Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic while 42nd-ranked Murray, the 2016 champion in Rome, reflects on what to do next as the French Open draws closer.
Leading up to Rome Murray had always won his matches if they were taken to a decider, but not on this occasion.
From the start the Scot had his hands full saving five break points as Fognini attempted to gain an early advantage which he eventually did in the third game for a 2-1 lead.
With that the Italian grew in confidence on his favourite surface as the Brit got increasingly more frustrated, especially when he failed to convert one of the three break points he held in the sixth game and vented his frustrations against umpire Mohammed Lahyani when he failed to overrule a call which he disputed with the original call later being confirmed by Hawkeye.
Murray recovered his poise in the second going 2-0 up after breaking Fognini on his seventh break point which seemed to deflate the Italian as he quickly secured a double break as he strode into a 5-1 lead.
But then the recovery started as Fognini collected three consecutive games before Murray was able to level the match at a set-all.
The recovery continued in the decider where Murray was seen to be flagging after dropping his opening service game and with Fognini, a talented and experienced clay courter, in full song Murray was unable to turn the match in his favour.
Another veteran is also through to round two, Stan Wawrinka who eased past Ilya Ivashka 6-4 6-2 to set up a second round meeting with the 26th seed, Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov.
The 38-year-old Swiss three-time gand slam champion, playing in the Italian capital for the 18th time, hit 26 winners and saved the one break point he faced.
“I was ready for it. I am playing well. It was a good first match and I am really happy to get through again,” said Wawrinka, who was runner-up to Novak Djokovic in Rome in 2008.
The former world number three now down at 84 in the rankings added: “I have been working hard to get to this level. This year I am playing much better, but I need to win more matches.”