Fognini Fires Past Tsonga In Rome
Italian Fabio Fognini continued his march toward a Top 10 breakthrough on Monday, defeating former World No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-4 to reach the second round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
The 10th seed made his best run at the Foro Italico last season, advancing to the quarter-finals before falling to eventual champion Rafael Nadal in three sets. He made a strong start under the lights against 17-time ATP Tour champion Tsonga, outmanoeuvring the Frenchman in baseline rallies to move on after one hour and 23 minutes.
"“To play first round against Jo – [it was a] really tough match, because of course he was injured. He had surgery on the knee. He tried to recover his best performance, but at the same time I knew that it could be really dangerous," Fognini said. "I'm happy, of course, happy because especially for me here, it's always tough to play. But I'm happy about my performance, happy to be again in the second round in Roma."
Tsonga had won four of the pair’s five FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, with Fognini triumphing in their most recent encounter at the 2017 BNP Paribas Open. But the Italian is in some of the best form of his career, capturing his first ATP Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, and he saved five of the six break points he faced against Tsonga. Fognini will next face the player who beat him at Indian Wells, Moldovan Radu Albot, or French qualifier Benoit Paire.
With a big effort this week, Fognini could potentially crack the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings next Monday for the first time. If he does so, Fognini will be the third Italian man to reach the milestone, as well as the oldest player to do so 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.
"I came in here with my best [ATP] Ranking... it's not too far from the Top 10. The way I am playing, I feel confident," Fognini said. "I know that if I play like that I can do something big. But at the same time I know that it's difficult, every day is different, every match is different. Every match, it's really complicated."
Tsonga is still on the comeback trail after missing seven months of the 2018 season after undergoing left knee surgery last April. The Frenchman, who fell to World No. 262 last November, is already back inside the Top 100 after lifting the trophy at the Open Sud de France in February.
Spanish qualifier Albert Ramos-Vinolas upset 15th seed Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-1 in 61 minutes, breaking the Frenchman's serve on all four chances he earned. It is the 31-year-old's second Top 10 win of the season, and he will try to beat Argentine Diego Schwartzman or Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka to reach the third round
Rio de Janeiro champion Laslo Djere cruised past Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 6-4 without facing a break point. The Serbian will next play 14th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.