© Linda Carlsson/SkiStar Swedish Open

Fabio Fognini defeats Fernando Verdasco in three sets to reach the SkiStar Swedish Open final on Saturday.

Fognini Edges Verdasco To Reach Båstad Final

Italian to meet Gasquet in championship match

Fabio Fognini reached his second tour-level final of the season, beating Fernando Verdasco 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 at the SkiStar Swedish Open on Saturday.

The Brasil Open champion, who will meet Richard Gasquet in Sunday's final, defeated the Spanish left-hander for the first time in four FedEx ATP Head2Head clay-court encounters (Verdasco leads overall 4-3) after two hours and 17 minutes, winning 76 per cent of second-serve return points en route to victory. Earlier this year, Fognini and Verdasco met at the same stage at the Rio Open presented by Claro, with Verdasco triumphing in straight sets.

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Fognini got off to a quick start, breaking Verdasco in three consecutive return games to take control of the semi-final encounter. But Verdasco, after making an early breakthrough in the second set, forced a decider with a third break of serve in the ninth game.

The 31-year-old Fognini twice led by a break in the third set, and despite surrendering his advantage on both occasions, eventually claimed victory. Fognini capitalised on forehand errors, either side of an aggressive foray to the net, to deny Verdasco a third opportunity to lift the trophy. The 34-year-old reached the championship match in 2013 (l. to Berlocq) and 2016 (l. to Ramos-Vinolas).

"Beating Fernando is really difficult. He is a great champion," said Fognini. "Today was a tough match, I started really well... and then after losing the first game of the second set, it was 40-0 on my serve, he was playing more confidently... At the end, I think it is a lottery."

Fognini, who owns a 30-14 record this season, will attempt to defeat Gasquet for the second time in four FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings.

Gasquet booked his place in his third tour-level final this season, cruising past Henri Laaksonen 6-2, 6-3. The fourth seed won 80 per cent of first-serve points and converted four of nine break-point chances to reach the championship match after 72 minutes.

"[Fabio] is a great player. Especially on a clay court, he is one of the best," said Gasquet. "He has had a good season and I know how tough he is, but... I'm feeling better and better."

The World No. 29, who improved to 15-15 in tour-level finals by lifting his third grass-court title at the Libema Open in June, recovered from an early break down in the second set to deny lucky loser Laaksonen a place in his first tour-level final. The Swiss 26-year-old was appearing in his second tour-level semi-final after falling to David Goffin at the final-four stage of the 2017 Shenzhen Open.

"It was a good match. I started well," said Gasquet. "I played a great first set. The second set was more difficult, but I just tried to fight. It was very important for me to break him at 4-3 and it was tough to close the match but I did it."

Double Delight For Fognini
Partnering Simone Bolelli, Fognini returned later in the day to reach the final of the doubles event. The Italian duo, who won the 2015 Australian Open, defeated top seeds Max Mirnyi and Philipp Oswald 6-3, 4-6, 10-4.

The three-time tour-level titlists progressed to the championship match after 86 minutes, winning 77 per cent of first-serve points. Bolelli and Fognini will face second-seeded Julio Peralta and Horacio Zeballos in the final. Peralta and Zeballos secured their place in the final on Friday, beating Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner 6-3, 6-2.

Did You Know?
En route to his sixth tour-level crown at the Brasil Open in February, Fabio Fognini ended Pablo Cuevas' 15-match win streak at the Sao Paulo-based event.

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