Roland Garros 2019: Can Fabio Fognini upset Alexander Zverev in the Round of 16?
Fabio Fognini had a phenomenal start to this year's clay-court season as he won the Monte Carlo Masters. But he couldn't capitalize on the momentum and failed to reach the quarter-finals in the tournaments that followed.
In the on-going French Open, he has defeated all his three opponents in four sets, which indicates that he is losing his way during matches. He is lucky that none of the opponents have taken advantage so far, but that's just the way Fognini plays - he thrives upon the encouragement he gets from the crowd after losing a set.
Alexander Zverev, on the other hand, has played almost every week this clay season and he finally found success by winning Geneva Open title the week before Roland Garros. But in Paris, he has been finding it tough to dominate as two out of the three matches he has played have been five-setters.
Zverev has been taken the distance by the likes of John Millman and Dusan Lajovic before reaching the fourth round. But what's impressive is the level of fitness Zverev has been maintaining right from the start of the year; he looked fresh even in the fifth set against those two players.
Fognini and Zverev have played each other three times, Zverev having won two of the three matches. But Fognini won their most recent encounter in straight sets, defeating Zverev 7-6, 6-1 in the Monte Carlo fourth round.
So what's the key for Fognini to defeat Alexander Zverev?
If the Italian is able to consistently find the right angles, he will be able to make life difficult for Zverev. He would also try to engage the German in forehand-to-forehand rallies, as he can easily dominate in that exchange.
But the rallies are where Fognini needs to be careful as Zverev tends to wear out his opponents by playing consistently from the baseline. Zverev has got good variety in his game too, and it remains to be seen how what counters he comes up with for the Italian's aggressive game style.
Fitness-wise the edge goes to Zverev. Fognini cannot wait for Zverev to get fatigued in the middle of the match, and he has to take matters into his own hands.
Moreover, if Fognini allows Zverev to hit his backhand freely, he could be in a lot of trouble. The German can find some brilliant angles with his crosscourt backhand, and his down-the-line version is one of the best in the world.
It is going to be a forehand vs backhand contest, and it would be up to Fognini to ensure that he does not lose his temperament in the middle of the match.