Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 16 October 2019

'Unbelievable': Fabio Fognini becomes first Italian to clinch Monte Carlo Masters title in more than 50 years

Thirteenth seed watched by compatriot Nicola Pietrangeli, who was last Italian to lift trophy in 1968

Italy's Fabio Fognini defeated Dusan Lajovic in the Monte Carlo Masters final, after knocking out 11-time winner Rafael Nadal in the last four. AFP
Italy's Fabio Fognini defeated Dusan Lajovic in the Monte Carlo Masters final, after knocking out 11-time winner Rafael Nadal in the last four. AFP

Colourful Fabio Fognini beat Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-4 to win the Monte Carlo Masters on Sunday, to become the first Italian to triumph at the clay-court showpiece in more than half a century.

The 13th seed, based just 20 kilometres over the border in San Remo, followed on from compatriot Nicola Pietrangeli, who watched from the royal box at the Monte Carlo Country Club.

Pietrangeli won the trophy in the principality in 1961, 1967 and 1968. He came to the court after the trophy ceremony to pose for pictures with his new tennis heir, who was following up his shock semi-final win over 11-time Monte Carlo champion Rafael Nadal.

“I was born nearby so this is extraordinary,” Fognini, 31, said. “I started the season rather badly, so this is unbelievable. I’m very content with this victory, especially with all of the Italians here today.”

World No 48 Lajovic was playing in the first ATP final of his career and got to the match without losing a set.

Fognini looked to be temporarily hampered as he limped momentarily after breaking the Serb for 3-2 in the second after claiming the first set in 44 minutes. During a medical timeout, he was taped on his right thigh and a heel, but carried on without apparent problems as he finished the final on his second match point as Lajovic returned long.

The winner of his first Masters 1000 trophy came to the first major week of the pre-Roland Garros run-up with a 0-4 record on the clay, the surface he grew up on.

Among his victories this week was No 3 Alexander Zverev, and the stunning 6-4, 6-2 victory over Nadal on Saturday to end the Spanish star’s 25-set win streak in the principality.

“This is something just incredible,” said Fognini, who was a set and 4-1 down to Andrey Rublev in his opening match. “I’m really tired now, I’ve been running all week. I prepared for this final as best I could, I knew it would be tough, since Dusan has my ex-coach [Jose Perlas].

“This is a great achievement, but it’s tough to beat Rafa and then play a final.”

Lajovic was playing his first career ATP final and was far from crushed by defeat.

“It was my first time in the finals, so a great experience for me. Today was not easy, there was a lot of wind. “Fabio is a guy who knows how to play in these conditions. He has great hands, he’s moving really well.”

Updated: April 22, 2019 04:36 PM

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