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Fognini lands maiden Masters title in Monte Carlo

By Agencies - Apr 22,2019 - Last updated at Apr 22,2019

Winner Italy’s Fabio Fognini kisses the trophy after winning the final tennis match against Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic at the Monte-Carlo ATP Masters Series tournament in Monaco on Sunday (AFP photo by Yann Coatsaliou)

MONTE CARLO — Flamboyant Italian Fabio Fognini followed up his shock victory over Rafael Nadal with a 6-3, 6-4 final win over Serbian Dusan Lajovic to claim his maiden Masters title in Monte Carlo on Sunday.

The 31-year-old triumphed despite suffering from an apparent muscle problem to became the lowest seeded player, at 13, to claim the title since Gustavo Kuerten in 1999. 

Five weeks before the French Open kicks off at Roland Garros, Fognini produced some brilliant tennis on Monte Carlo’s red clay to snatch his ninth ATP singles title.

“I was preparing for the match as best I can because he has my ex-coach [Jose Perlas] and I knew it was going to be really tough, a lot of running,” said Fognini. “It’s an incredible achievement. I’m really, really happy.”

Lajovic, who had not lost a set this week before Sunday, did not have the weapons to counter Fognini’s tactical nous.

“It was my first time in a final, so a great experience for me,” the Serbian said. 

“Today was not easy to play, with a lot of wind. But 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.”

Fognini made several unforced errors early on, allowing Lajovic to break in the third game. But the Serbian failed to capitalise as he dropped serve in the next game. 

Fognini won three games in a row and held off Lajovic to seal the opening set with a stunning backhand winner down the line.

It was the first set Lajovic conceded in the tournament and the Serbian appeared quite shocked, dropping serve in the first game of the second set.

After a brief fightback Lajovic, who was also looking to win his first Masters title, was overwhelmed again and Fognini again broke to move 3-2 up.

In the following game, the Italian had his right leg strapped by the trainer and Lajovic tried to make the rallies longer.

But Fognini cleverly ended some of them with dropshots as he held serve for 4-2.

He ended the contest on his second match point. 

He may have once been thrown out of the US Open for a misogynistic attack on a female umpire and indulged in a blistering rant at tennis’s NextGen, but Fognini insists his bad boy image is now a thing of the past.

“I have everything in my life. I’m healthy, I have a baby, I have a wife,” said the 31-year-old Italian.

Courtside was his wife Flavia Pennetta, a former US Open champion towards whom he spent the week happily blowing kisses while shaping hearts with his hands during breaks in play.

Fognini married Pennetta in 2016 and one year later they became parents to baby son Frederico.

Now a model family man, Fognini is concentrating more on his tennis than his temper.

“They are with me all the time,” said Fognini of his family.

“You feel happy because when you do your work and you do it great and win... I have to be happy.”

The first Italian to lift the Monte Carlo honours since Nicola Pietrangeli in 1968 no longer strikes fear into chair umpires and line officials.

The new family-friendly version of Fognini even came back onto court on Sunday nearly an hour after his win to meet with cheering ballboys and ballgirls, who engulfed him in a mass hug.

It was all a far cry from his infamous US Open meltdown two years ago.

After falling to countryman and qualifier Stefano Travaglio in the first round, Fognini launched a series of rages against Swedish umpire Louise Engzell.

He was fined $24,000 before being eventually disqualified from the Grand Slam event.

At last year’s French Open, he labelled the attention on the sport’s so-called NextGen of promising youngsters as “bulls***”

“There is such a fuss made about them, I don’t like it, I don’t agree.

“This Next Generation thing is bulls***. Winning 10-8 in the fifth on court 27, you have to go through that — not playing against Federer on Court Philippe Chatrier.”

He returned to the topic in February during the South American clay swing, saying the young stars should be scheduled on secondary match courts until they proved themselves.

“I see the current generation in a different way than mine and the previous one.

“Sometimes they do not say ‘hi’, they believe they are stars. I was pretty crazy as a teenager, but as the time went on I got used to the rules.

“Younger tennis players are not humble.”

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