It is amazing how a good coach and more maturity can turn a career for the good, especially in a sport as mentally demanding as tennis.
A year ago, Fabio Fognini was known for being a very talented player with a fragile mental.
Today, the Italian reached his second final in as many weeks after clawing his way back from a 3-6, 3-5 deficit to edge Tommy Robredo 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the first semifinal of the Copa Claro, in Buenos Aires, in the type of match that, only a year ago, he would have lost, most likely in straight sets.
Today’s win was no ordinary feat for the 26-year-old, who was 3-4 in the head-to-head against his rival, all four losses coming on clay. The last one of those Robredo wins, in the Umag final, had also put an end to a 13-match winning streak which included Fognini’s first two career titles.
Fognini started the first set by breaking Robredo, and came within points of a 3-0 lead. The Spaniard saved all break points, won five straight games, then clinched the first set, before breaking early in the second.
With Robredo serving for the match at 5-3 in the second, the World n°14 came up with some of the best tennis we have seen him play this week. He did not want to see another streak end to the hands of Robredo, he wanted to reach his second straight final. Fognini fired three spectacular backhand winners, bringing himself to break point, which he took on a backhand from his rival sent wide. Two games later, Robredo double faulted to hand Fognini the second set, 7-5.
After the match, Fognini conceded that this was a turning point for him, and what he told himself to turn the match around. “What came to my mind [when Robredo was serving for the match] was just to put the ball in and run”, he declared. “It was a difficult game, where I think I played well. Then some things changed, because I started playing better, coming in a little more, dictating the points more.”
The decider was a tight affair between the two, until the Italian finally managed to break midway through the set, only to see a 40-15 lead melt into a break back in the very next one. However, “Fogna” had not said his last word and broke again with a lob worthy of Lleyton Hewitt or David Nalbandian’s finest to earn the chance to serve out the match, which he did with relative ease, sealing his passage to the final, where he will face David Ferrer, who defeated Nicolás Almagro 6-4, 6-2.
It was, really, the type of match that Fognini was losing, only a year ago. Since then, with the help of coach José Perlas, and a lot of maturity, the Italian climbed his way up the rankings and is showing the tennis world that he is much more than a pretty face and an immense, but unfulfilled, talent: he is making his talent speak, and very loudly.
The Italian concurred: “The old Fognini wasn’t playing non-stop like this for a long time. That’s how it is. That’s one of the keys. My head, my coach, and obviously the matches I’ve won, those were things that made me change.”
And a change that everyone appreciates.