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Fabio Fognini is at a career-high No. 12 in the ATP Rankings.

How Fognini Can Crack The Top 10 In Rome

Monte-Carlo champion trying to become third Italian to achieve the feat

Fabio Fognini made Italian history at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, becoming the first player from his country to lift an ATP Masters 1000 trophy. And now, just weeks later, the World No. 12 will have a chance to become just the third Italian man to crack the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings. Furthermore, Fognini can become the oldest player to reach the milestone for the first time since 38-year-old Ken Rosewall and 35-year-old Rod Laver on 23 August 1973, the first week of the ATP Rankings.

Corrado Barazzutti was the last Italian in the elite group the week of 22 January 1979. The only other Italian to break into the Top 10 was Adriano Panatta, who ascended as high as World No. 4 (24 August 1976).

Italians To Crack The Top 15

 Player  Career-High
 Adriano Panatta  4
 Corrado Barazzutti  7
 Fabio Fognini  12
 Paolo Bertolucci  12

This week, though, Fognini will have an opportunity to join them if he performs well enough at his home ATP Masters 1000 tournament, the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. The 31-year-old, who turns 32 on 24 May, is tied for his career-best ATP Ranking of No. 12 (2,920), just 105 points behind No. 10 Marin Cilic (3,025).

In Rome, Cilic is defending 360 points from his semi-final appearance last year, while Fognini made the quarter-finals in 2018 for 180 points. So Fognini is beginning the tournament in better position than the Croat. But American John Isner, who is ranked 11th with 2,950 points, is only defending 10 points. Even though Isner will not be competing in Rome as he recovers from a stress fracture in his left foot, that will put him ahead of both Fognini and Cilic once points dropping this week are factored in.

So for Fognini to have a chance at becoming the third Italian man to crack the Top 10, he will need to make at least the semi-finals to have more points than Isner. If he does so, Fognini then would just have to match or exceed Cilic's result. 

World No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro, who is still recovering from a knee injury he suffered last October, has only played two tournaments this season, competing on clay for the first time last week at the Mutua Madrid Open. He reached the quarter-finals at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com in February.

The Argentine has 810 points to defend through Roland Garros, of which he will need to defend 720 points on Paris’ terre battue. The ‘Tower of Tandil’ only has a 225-point lead over Fognini, so even if the Italian does not make a breakthrough this week, he will have an opening to pass both Del Potro and Cilic at Roland Garros

Points To Defend Through Roland Garros

 Player  ATP Ranking Pts  Pts To Defend  With Pts Through RG Removed
 No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro  3,145  810  2,335
 No. 10 Marin Cilic  3,025  720  2,305
 No. 11 John Isner  2,950  235  2,715
 No. 12 Fabio Fognini  2,920  450  2,470

Fognini is 31, and he turns 32 in less than two weeks. From the current Top 10, the oldest player to break into the elite group for the first time was Kevin Anderson, who did so in October 2015 as a 29-year-old. The next oldest is Kei Nishikori, who did so as a 24-year-old. So while Fognini has been ranked inside the Top 50 since September 2012 and first reached that milestone in April 2011, he has chipped away to move to the brink of the Top 10.

Although Laver and Rosewall technically 'cracked' the Top 10 at an older age than Fognini would, that is a function of the first ATP Rankings being released on 23 August 1973. Both Laver and Rosewall won several Grand Slam titles by their early 20s.

Age When Current Top 10 First Broke Into Top 10

 Player  Age
 Rafael Nadal  18
 Novak Djokovic  19
 Juan Martin del Potro  20
 Alexander Zverev  20
 Roger Federer   20
 Stefanos Tsitsipas  20
 Dominic Thiem  22
 Kei Nishikori  24
 Kevin Anderson  29
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