This 2011 French Open has certainly had its fair share of the unexpected occurring in matches. Five-time champion Rafael Nadal was down two sets to one in the first round. Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova each found themselves on the different end of wild comebacks. A questionable scheduling decision forced a marquee match to be played over two days and not on the main court.
However, what occurred in the fifth set of a men's fourth round match Sunday in Paris between two virtually unknown players, has to be considered at the top of the crazy meter.
Here is a list of what Italian Fabio Fognini overcame to advance to his first career grand-slam quarterfinal (an 4-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 11-9 win over Albert Montanes).
A fifth-set 5-2 deficit
Severe leg cramps that began late in the match
Five match points for Montanes
A slew of foot faults, including two on second serves that resulted in double faults and one on a match-point, with at least one of them called in every game after coming down with the cramps
A hostile crowd that was not only fueled by the delay in the match because of the cramps, but for events that occurred in his second-round match against Frenchman Gael Monfils last year at Roland Garros.
Fognini was clearly helped out by the passive play by his opponent after he came down with the injury and while he was going for broke on virtually every point, his effort to come through showed some incredible heart. He could barely walk and/or stand up in between points, but he never gave an inch.
The deeper the hole Fognini was in, the better his shot. Four of the five match points were erased with amazing winners by the Italian, including a drop shot. He was also helped out by a couple of lucky let cords in a fifth-set that had just about everything.
After all those events that probably seem just as unreal to Fognini as it does to anyone who watched the match, reality is probably going to kick in, and in a hurry. He is unlikely to be anywhere near 100 percent physically heading into the next round, and is facing one of the worst, if not the worst opponents, when health is a factor.
Not only is Novak Djokovic on a streak for the ages, but he is also an extremely good athlete and very fit. Fognini will not be helped out in that encounter as he was against Montanes, who gave him the opportunity to hit out on balls. Djokovic will force the Italian to run all over the court and will test him physically.
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