The quarter-finals in the on-going Monte Carlo Masters could easily be considered one of the best match-viewing experiences in the last few months as there was a shock exit of Novak Djokovic by the young Russian Daniil Medvedev and the day ended with Fabio Fognini defeating Borna Coric in a thriller of a contest.
Fognini of Italy defeated Borna Coric from a set and a break down in the second set to set-up a scintillating clash with long-time rival and defending champion Rafael Nadal in the semis.
Fognini seemed to have lost his way in the first set of his quarter-final match as he had a right elbow injury. Also, his body language looked weary and the Italian fans in the crowd looked set for a disappointment.
Earlier, a young Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego lost to Dusan Lajovic in the quarter-finals and Fognini was the only Italian left in the draw.
Coming back to Fognini vs Coric, Coric was in full-swing as he was striking the ball perfectly and deeply into the court side of Fognini and he won the first set 6-1.
Fognini lost his service in the second set and Coric was all set to win the match before the nerves started to get the better of the Croatian. The Italian fans had began supporting Fognini with various chants and the game suddenly turned on its head.
Coric lost his serve at 2-2 and from then on, Fognini started to get some momentum and the timing of his shots gradually improved. On the other hand, Coric lost his flare and as a result, we witnessed more errors from the Croatian.
With few errors and a double break, Fognini won the second set 6-3 and immediately broke Coric in the first game of the third set. From then on, it was Fabio's show all over as he proved why he was one of the best entertainers, especially on a clay court, and won the third set and match 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.
His semi-final opponent and defending champion Rafael Nadal too faced some serious challenge in the form of Guido Pella, as the latter got a staggering lead of 4-1 in the first set with a fair amount of unforced errors from the forehand of Rafa.
Pella was striking the ball better than Rafa and it looked as if Rafa had to work hard to defeat Pella and in-fact, he had to work hard to come back from 1-4 down and take the set to a tie-breaker with some marvelous defense as that first set took 75 minutes to complete.
Pella, who had an incredible clay court season this year by winning the tournament in Sao Paulo, was unable to thrust any force on Rafa's forehand as he was striking the ball hard and finding the angles perfectly.
Have a look at this forehand winner from Rafa:
"Insane" is the word to describe this shot and there was no stopping Rafa from that point as he marched towards victory over Pella 7-6,6-1. But, Pella's efforts should be celebrated as he gave everything in his armor and just fought as hard as he could to take that first set. But, the clay coourt is Rafa's empire and no one can stop him.
Head-to-Head Record of Rafael Nadal and Fabio Fognini:
The two players have met 14 times before on tour and it is the Spaniard who has come out on top with 11 wins over Fognini's 3, with the Italian last winning against Rafa back in 2015.
Their last encounter was in the quarter-finals of the 2018 Italian Open, and the atmosphere of the match was spectacular as everyone got entertained with the quality of tennis played by these two, especially in the first set where Fognini displayed high quality forehand shots delivered with ease into the backhand of Rafa.
Fognini lost the match in three sets eventually, but if there's any player apart from Novak Djokovic who can give a stiff challenge to Rafa and entertain the crowd with some fantastic shot-making, it has to be the Italian.
The unpredictability of Fabio's mindset is what that lets him down in certain matches but surprisingly, this varying mindset has proved to be a boon for him on various occasions and the victory against Borna Coric today was a befitting example for the same.
Get ready to witness a high-octane entertainer between these two players and Court Rainier III in Monte Carlo will definitely turn into a football stadium tomorrow for this match.
Match Preview :
I always cherish an under-dog winning a contest by defeating the obvious winner and so it will be a great moment if Fabio wins this match. Although, Rafa's invincibility cannot be ignored at any cost, especially on clay.
Match Prediction : Fabio Fognini wins in three sets.