Fognini Stuns Nadal With 70 Winners
Italian Fabio Fognini wins a late-night epic at the US Open
Flamboyant Italian Fabio Fognini produced a stunning comeback win over Rafael Nadal laced with 70 winners to reach the fourth round of the US Open in the early hours of Saturday morning in New York. In a pulsating match that finished around 1.30am, Fognini’s dazzling shot-making officially ended Nadal’s streak of winning at least one Grand Slam title a year for 10 straight years after the 3hr., 46 min., battle.
Nadal had been a perfect 151-0 at Grand Slam level after winning the first two sets, while Fognini’s record of winning from two sets down at the majors was 4-19.
Eighth-seeded Nadal looked to be cruising, leading two sets to love, before the Italian surged back to claim his third victory over the Spaniard this year 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 in one of the best matches of the season.
It was a remarkable turnaround from Fognini. He had never beaten a Top 10 player on hard courts in 17 previous attempts.
After dropping the first two sets, Fognini turned in one of the most breathtaking shot-making displays of the year. He clubbed forehand and backhand winners from all parts of the court with exquisite timing that belied the amount of effort behind them. He also attacked the net regularly, winning 39 of 52 approaches.
In a rollercoaster final set, the players held their opening serves but then exchanged seven consecutive breaks before Fognini served out the match from 5-4. Earlier, in a pulsating eighth game of the set, Nadal rallied from 40/0 on Fognini's serve and ultimately saved four game points before leveling the set at 4-all. But Fognini responded with four clean winners to break the Spaniard to love.
Fognini claimed his third win from four meetings with Nadal in 2015. The Italian improved to a 10-9 career mark in fifth sets; Nadal slipped to 17-6. He next plays another Spanish left-hander, Feliciano Lopez.
Fognini said that his high-risk, high-reward strategy was needed to beat Nadal.
“Well, with Rafa you have to try that, because otherwise if you run -- he start running at the beginning and you finish at the end of the week. It's not easy. It is a really special win.
“If you want to play against him and if you want to do something different, you have to take risks. That's the only thing. Probably I make a lot of unforced errors, but it doesn't matter. You have to do that with a great player who runs a lot on the baseline.”
Nadal paid tribute to Fognini's shot-making. "He played great," Nadal said. "It was not a match that I lost, even if I had opportunities. It's a match that he won. So accept. I'm not happy that he played better than me, but that's what happened.
"I fought until the last point all the time, with a good attitude. But it was not enough to win today. I lost a couple of matches like that this year... I enjoyed the crowd. Was amazing support out there. Just a very special feeling to be out there with that support."