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Fabio Fognini celebrates beating sixth seed Dominic Thiem on Friday at the Foro Italico in Rome.

Fognini Causes Major Upset In Rome

Italian star regroups to edge tight decider

Fabio Fognini, fueled by the support of fervent Italians at the Foro Italico, caused a major upset on Wednesday in beating one of the ATP World Tour’s best clay talents, sixth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem, at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Fognini, just two days on from the 300th match win of his career, defeated last year’s semi-finalist 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in two hours and five minutes for a place in the third round – for the third time in four years. This year's Brasil Open champion, who is 19-10 in 2018, will now prepare to face Germany's Peter Gojowczyk on Thursday.

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Fognini won three of the first four games, then, after being broken to 15 at 4-3, the Italian played smart in windy conditions. At 4-4, with Thiem serving at 15/40, Fognini struck a low backhand to his opponent’s backhand, which was struck into the net. He later closed out the 42-minute set, with a crosscourt backhand that was not only deep, but caught the line, catching Thiem off-guard. Ten of Thiem’s 15 unforced errors came on his forehand.

Fognini left the court at the end of the set, giving Thiem the time to collect his thoughts. The World No. 8 got better and better, striking cleanly through the ball. He dropped just seven points to a 5-0 lead, breaking Fognini's serve for 2-0, with a backhand drop volley, then again in the fourth game with a Fognini forehand error.

Fognini re-energised in the decider, urging himself on for the final assault. Thiem felt the heat, coming through big holds in the fourth game and five break points at 2-3 — a 14-minute game. Left frustrated, Fognini boiled over and almost paid the price in the next game at 15/40, before embarking on a run of six straight points to put the pressure back on Thiem’s shoulders. Fognini soon pumped his fist on earning a 5-3 lead, when Thiem hooked a forehand wide and the Austrian fell apart.

"It was a good match, actually, from both of us, I would say," reflected Thiem. "[The match] was a very intense fight, basically from the beginning to the end. So I'm disappointed that I lost, obviously. But game-wise, I'm not really disappointed."

Thiem drops to a 16-5 record on clay-courts this year, which includes the Argentina Open title (d. Bedene) and last week’s Mutua Madrid Open final (l. to Zverev).

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