ATP Paris

From Paris, our correspondent

[LL] F. Fognini b. [Q] A. Fils 7-6 (5) 6-7 (4) 6-2

Matteo Berrettini’s retirement from Rolex Paris Masters allowed Fabio Fognini to be fished out, and fate placed him in front of the very one who had beaten him in the decisive qualifying round on Sunday. Arthur Fils was present at the Parisian tournament thanks to a wild card, and the 18-year-old fully repaid the invitation with excellent performances, including today’s one where he was defeated 7-6 (5) 6-7 (4) 6-2 by Fabio , in two hours and 36 minutes. The Ligurian tennis player had the great merit of always staying in the match – even in times of difficulty lived in the second set – and not to be influenced by an audience lined up for the most part towards his opponent, always remaining correct. Fils, number 308 in the world, was swinging in the game failing to make the most of his physical exuberance, while Fognini tactically was flawless. Perhaps he did not use the damping but against such a fast young man he can stand up to it; and the most spectacular points are his, including the superlative one in the last game with two shots to the net and chased to the bottom. For the seventh out of eight Masters 1000 of the season, Fognini overcomes at least the first round and now will face the winner of Dimitrov-Van de Zandschulp.

THE MATCH – Some inaccuracies in the Frenchman’s net cost him three consecutive break points in favor of Fognini in the opening game, but Fils is good at saving with his serve. The 18-year-old, for physical structure (82kg per 185cm according to the ATP website) and execution movements, very reminiscent of Felix Auger-Aliassime, with a spin loaded forehand but very deep and heavy. In the fifth game it is Fils who has the break point, but shoots along with the forehand – a bit imprecise shot in the early stages of the game.

The involvement of the public is total, but by no means all lined up for the French. On the contrary, the fringe of Italian fans is numerous so much so that the choirs that praise the name ‘Fabio’ are frequent and noisy as much as those in favor of Arthur. The attitude of the Italian tennis player takes little time to ignite, a sign that he feels a lot of parity and knows he can bring it home, but certain outbursts of nervousness following mistakes do not go unnoticed. Several times Fabio complained to his corner (where Bolelli was also present, with whom he will play doubles later, Musetti and Tartarini) perhaps due to the lack of feeling with the racket and the surface, however it is almost always he who dictates the game – for better or for worse – scoring the best points but also the most mistakes.
The n.59 lives a thrill in the twelfth game when with a double foul and a wide forehand he grants a set point, however a straight answer on the net on a second thwarts the threat.

The tiebreak of the first set is a battle of nerves, with the Italian increasingly talkative; Fils clings to the serve (despite the double foul of the first point) and to abandon it is the forehand. Two very serious mistakes, one at the net and one very large, cost him two consecutive mini-breaks, which obviously are promptly exploited by the veteran Fognini. At the second set point, another backhand on the net of the # 308 puts an end to the first set, 7 points to 5 later 61 minutes of beautiful tennis.

In the second set, however, the balance does not last long: in the third game Arthur brekka Fabio in the second chance after a strenuous defense of the Italian, but on which he weighed a double foul at the beginning of the game. Fils, strong in his young age, is galvanized more and more thanks to his offensive game that over time becomes more effective on a perhaps a little tired Fognini. He starts playing full arm, probably with his head already in the deciding set, while Fils in the service is increasingly devastating. Instead, it is always his right side to fail, and from chance of 5-2, the Frenchman finds himself 4 even making a mistake again with this fundamental, while Fabio goes up and how with the backhand finding solutions to applause. The Frenchman, as is predictable given his young age, goes in gusts and in an instant he even finds himself two points away from defeat. Here the intervention of the public is fundamental (as it had been in their previous qualifying match, where a group of his young friends had literally acted as ultras, so much so that they were kicked out in the final stages of the match) and under 4-5 0-30, Fils gets galvanized and prey at the trance competitive even takes the lead 6-5. The heaviness of his blows now appears evident but the accuracy is always lacking: other forehand and serve gifts allow Fabio to play another tiebreak until a few minutes ago it seemed unthinkable. Here, however, Arthur immediately takes the advantage and, although hesitating at the bar, he does it without problems 7 points to 4.

The decisive set, after a physiological break for both, opens with a break in favor of the Italian, today really clinging to the match despite the continuous one-way dialogue with his box. He continues to complain that things are not going the right way, and in fact the score, although in his favor, could be heavier as he gets – without realizing them – three balls of the double break already in the third game. The double advantage, however, comes shortly after, with a Fabio now much more gritty and stubborn than his opponent.

In the seventh game he leaves Fils at the post and, at the time of serving for the 5-2, he scores as mentioned the best point of the match (and one of the best of his career), holding the serve at ‘0’ for the last time and closing an incredible marathon, winning with great merit 7-6 (5) 6-7 (4) 6-2, in two hours and 36 minutes.