Fixture: (2) Rafael Nadal vs (16) Fabio Fognini
Date: 15 February 2021
Tournament: Australian Open 2021
Round: Fourth round (Round of 16)
Venue: Melbourne, Australia
Category: Grand Slam
Surface: Outdoor hardcourt
Prize money: AUD $80 million
Live telecast: USA - ESPN / Tennis Channel | India - Sony Six
Rafael Nadal vs Fabio Fognini preview
World No. 2 Rafael Nadal takes on 16th seed Fabio Fognini in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Monday.
The Spaniard had a difficult start to the 2021 season, having to withdraw from the ATP Cup singles matches due to a back injury. However, things have been relatively comfortable for him in the opening rounds of the Australian Open.
Fabio Fognini meanwhile has had a torrid time over the past 12 months due to a recurring ankle injury. But he has looked hungry and focused in Melbourne, seemingly determined to overturn his poor run of form.
After winning two out of his four matches at the ATP Cup, Fognini put in a solid performance against Pierre Hugues-Herbert in the Australian first round. He then ground out a fiesty five-set encounter against compatriot Salvatore Caruso.
The Italian's most impressive performance, however, came against local favorite and Aussie No. 1 Alex de Minaur in the third round. Fognini dispatched the World No. 23 6-4 6-3 6-4 to set up the blockbuster match against Nadal.
Rafael Nadal vs Fabio Fognini head-to-head
The meeting in Melbourne is the 17th professional match between the pair, and Rafael Nadal currently leads the head-to-head 12-4 over Fabio Fognini.
The Italian has lately struggled against Nadal despite getting a surprisingly lopsided win on his way to the Monte Carlo title in 2019. His three other victories over the Spaniard came way back in 2015, including his remarkable comeback in the third round of the US Open.
Apart from 2015, Nadal has repeatedly exerted his superiority over Fognini in their matchups, winning six of their seven encounters on hardcourts.
Rafael Nadal vs Fabio Fognini prediction
Rafael Nadal is the overwhelming favorite against Fabio Fognini on paper, even if his physical fitness may not be at its sharpest.
Nadal has spent the joint-least amount of time on court among the remaining men's players in the tournament, but his serve has been noticeably slower than usual. That said, the Spaniard's back injury has seemingly improved with time, and he has been able to get into a good groundstroke rhythm against lower-ranked opposition.
Fognini, on the other hand, has shown incredible resolve to make it to the fourth round after complicated early-round ties. The Italian is slowly looking to get back to his best, but the biggest test of his physicality will come in a battle of attrition against Nadal.
If Fognini is to cause an upset, he will have to nullify Nadal's strengths through his aggressive strokeplay and efficient movement. But given his recent fitness and injury concerns, doing so against one of the best players in the world may be too much of an ask.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in straight sets.