Mar/19

23

Fognini Is The Best Ticket In Tennis

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By Scoop Malinowski

If you want to see beautiful power tennis performed by a showman with a natural knack for creating drama and little, funny moments during the match, you have to go watch Fabio Fognini.

Strange, odd things happen in Fognini matches, incidents you never see from any other player. Last night, Fognini delivered again, in his three set victory on Butch Buchholz Stadium in the second round at Miami Open.

Fognini, the 15 seed here, lost the first set tiebreaker to Guido Andreeozzi and then the shenanigans began to happen, either naturally or by design I’m really not sure.

The first I noticed was at 4-1 Fognini in the second set, after the game ended, Fognini walked to the exit in the corner of the court, was half through the fence gate when he turned around and looked at the chair umpire and told him he was going to the bathroom, he didn’t ask he told him. Fognini also took his blue Babolat racquet with him.

All through the match, Fognini struts around and grins and mutters to himself or his box. And he flows around the court, pummeling forehands and backhands with such arrogance and confidence and fearlessness. It’s amazing tennis to see and so beautiful. It’s such a show compared to Andreeozzi, who does nothing but play equally good tennis but there’s no passion, no fire, no character, it’s just plain vanilla ice cream tennis.

Fognini plays tennis with all the works and syrup, nuts, chocolate, sprinkles, and whipped cream. And a cherry on top.

After winning the second set 64, Fognini held and broke for 2-0 and he punctuated the volley winner with a big fist pump and roar. It seemed he was now in total control Fabio would roll to triumph. But no, Fognini was broken in the next game for 2-1.

Fognini did two things I never saw happen before on a tennis court. He hit a serve from the ad side that hit the net cord and deflected perfectly right into the ballgirl’s hands where she was standing at the net post under the umpire chair.

Exactly, precisely into her hands. Perfectly slow enough for her to catch the surprise ball without a bobble or awkward stumble.

Then later in the set Fognini was down in the game 15-30 with the Argentine serving and somehow – I can’t remember how – Fognini had a ball and he softly hit it to the ballgirl at the far net post for no apparent reason. She alertly stepped forward to him to catch it in the alley of the court but she misjudged it and the ball hit off her knee squarely and bounced back to Fognini who chuckled at the unexpected occurrence that the girl inadvertently kneed the ball back to him.

These are the weird things that happen when Fognini is on the court. It’s like he has some kind of magical powers to create the impossible.

In the end Fabio made Andreeozzi look like a hired practice partner. The Argentines in the crowd tried to revive their man with those Olay oh lay oh lay oh oh, Guido, Guido chants several times the efforts were fruitless. Guido did not respond to them at all. It’s as if he didn’t want to steal Fabio’s show. Like he knew he was the subordinate second banana and he had no ambitions to be the star last night.

Fognini actually almost lost control of the match from 4-2 tol 4-4 but he fixed it with some sublime shotmaking and prevailed 6-4.

After the last point he strode to the net and smiled to the bleacher to the right side of the court, giving hand signals and blowing kisses. The proud Italian with the overflowing swagger was in his element.

After the match, I asked Italian great Corrado Barrazzuti what makes this guy Fognini special? He replied, “He was born to play tennis.”

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