Rome - Fabio
Fognini is hoping to capitalise on the mediocre form of Britain's world
number one Andy Murray when they meet in the second round of the Rome
Masters on Tuesday.
Fognini, ranked 29th in the world, booked his place in the second
round with a clinical 6-1, 6-3 win over fellow Italian Matteo Berrettini
Murray claimed his maiden Rome title with victory over Novak Djokovic in the Eternal City last year.
But the Scot, ousted by unseeded 20-year-old Croat Borna Coric at the
Madrid Open last week, has admitted his game on clay has gone awry -
and Fognini wants to capitalise.
"It's not a bad time to be meeting him, he's not playing at his usual
level. But to beat him, I'll need a big hand from the (supporters on)
centre court," Fognini said.
Murray, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Monday, leads their ATP
head to head series 3-2 and has beaten Fognini in their last two
But Fognini was the only player to push Rafael Nadal to three sets
last week in Madrid, where the Spaniard triumphed Sunday with victory
over Dominic Thiem, and Murray said he is taking nothing for granted.
"(Fognini) is one of the better clay-court players, for sure. He
obviously would be highly motivated, I would think, playing in Italy as
well," Murray said.
"I have had some tough matches with him in the past, so it won't be
easy. I will definitely need to play well in that one to have a chance
Nadal underlined his status as the tournament favourite when he
ousted Djokovic in their Madrid semi-final to claim his first clay
victory over the Serb in three years.
He then dominated Thiem in the final on Sunday to take his record on
the surface to 15-0 this year, in the process moving up to fourth in the
rankings ahead of Swiss rival Roger Federer.
Spain's 14-time Grand Slam champion is now a strong favourite to
claim his 10th French Open crown next month, although he remains
tight-lipped about his ambitions.
"I am aware that if I am fit and I can play well, I have the capacity to win important titles and achieve my goals," said Nadal.
It already looks ominous for Murray's hopes of defending his title,
and Fognini has also given four-time Rome champion Djokovic, the
defending French Open champion, the edge.
"On clay he (Murray) is just a little inferior to Djokovic, given that he's never won in Paris," added the Italian.
Yet Fognini, who has never made it past the third round in Rome and
has a win-loss record of 5-9 in the capital, has never forgotten exiting
the tournament under a hail of criticism from his home crowd in 2014.
He added: "I've never had a good run in this tournament. I will never
forget being whistled off the court when I was ranked 15th (in the
Results from the ATP Tour's Rome Masters on Sunday (x denotes seeding):
Fabio Fognini (ITA) bt Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 6-1, 6-3
John Isner (USA) bt Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP x14) 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/4), 6-1
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) bt Donald Young (USA) 6-3, 6-3
Jiri Vesely (CZE) bt Daniel Evans (GBR) 6-3, 6-1