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Fognini undoubtedly checking to see if his shoes are untied...
There is a certain fascination in watching Fabio Fognini play tennis. One way or another there will be a show. The Italian is one of the best clay-court players in the world. He has an athletic feel for clay and augments his fine defense and groundstrokes by taking chances with surprisingly wonderful or ill-advised risks.
But when things go wrong, the Fognini id is released, the fireworks of which can be volatile and entertaining. At Madrid, his latest outburst in a loss to Alexandr Dolgopolov saw him angrily smash a ball out of the stadium. He was handed a code violation for "ball abuse" (which is kind of comical because a large part of tennis is to bash a tennis ball, and the poor spherical victims last only seven to nine games apiece).
The 27-year-old Fognini has continued a steady rise that has placed him near the Top 15 since last summer. He has won mid-level tournaments at Stuttgart and Hamburg, and Vina del Mar (Chile). He has the kind of ceiling that could make him the next version of David Ferrer, except that he has a long way to go to prove his consistency, and he must improve on hard courts.
This French Open is a chance for Fognini to prove he can go deep at the one major at which he can make some noise—metaphorically, of course. Last year, he had very little chance to get past the third round, in which he did not play badly but was promptly swept by Rafael Nadal.
Next up is an electric matchup against Gael Monfils. Word to Fognini: Don't even try to incite the French crowd. You will not win that battle. If he plays his best, Fognini might prove that he is worthy of topping Monfils, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Andy Murray. He crushed Murray on clay during their April clash in Davis Cup competition.
It's a worthy challenge that demands consistency and control (yes, the temper), but suddenly Fognini's road to the French Open semifinals is not an impossible dream.