© Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

Defending champion Fabio Fognini defeats Miomir Kecmanovic to advance at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.

Fognini Makes Winning Return

Italian to face Jordan Thompson in second round

Two years on from the biggest title run of his career, Fabio Fognini made a successful return to the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters on Tuesday.

The Italian opened play on Court Rainier III with a 6-2, 7-5 victory against Miomir Kecmanovic to reach the second round. Fognini fired 27 winners, compared to just four from Kecmanovic, to advance in 85 minutes.

“It was difficult coming here with a bit of pressure,” Fognini said in his post-match interview. “Last week was a really bad week for me, so I tried to change something in my game, especially mentally, because when I am feeling good, [my] tennis is going the perfect way."

Rain had forced the majority of play to be cancelled on Monday, but the defending champion was welcomed onto court on Tuesday morning by perfect spring conditions in the Principality. Despite dropping serve in the opening game of the match, Fognini raced through the first set in 33 minutes.

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The second set proved far more competitive, but Fognini made a late move to claim his 18th win in Monte-Carlo (18-10). With Kecmanovic serving at 5-6, the 33-year-old outmanoeuvred the Serbian in an extended baseline rally to earn three consecutive match points. Fognini attacked his opponent’s forehand to convert his second opportunity.

“The first round is always difficult," said Fognini. "He was pushing the ball really hard from the baseline… I am happy about my victory today.”

En route to the title in 2019, Fognini claimed straight-sets wins against Alexander Zverev and 11-time champion Rafael Nadal. The Italian became the first player from his nation to lift an ATP Masters 1000 trophy with another straight-sets win against Dusan Lajovic in the championship match.

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“It is really special because I was born here, I was born in Sanremo," said Fognini. "I was practising here since I was 14 years old. I have a lot of memories here.”

Fognini will face Australia’s Jordan Thompson in the second round. Thompson outlasted Benoit Paire 6-4, 6-7(3), 7-6(5) over three hours and three minutes in his first-round match on Sunday.

Ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut took just 75 minutes to beat Sardegna Open semi-finalist Taylor Fritz 6-2, 7-5. The Spaniard dropped only four points behind his first serve (25/29) to book another meeting against American opposition. Bautista Agut will face Tommy Paul in the second round.

Grigor Dimitrov converted all three break points he created to defeat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-4. The 14th seed, who owns a 15-7 record in the Principality, will face Jeremy Chardy in his next match. The Frenchman dropped the second set of his match against Alexander Bublik 6-0, before he regained his form to defeat the Miami quarter-finalist 6-4, 0-6, 7-5.

Did You Know?
There are nine Italians in the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters main draw this year. Since the inception of the ATP Masters 1000 series in 1990, this marks a tournament record. The only Masters 1000 event to feature more Italian players in the main draw was the 1993 Internazionali BNL d 'Italia in Rome (10).

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