Fognini stuns Nadal 6-4, 6-2 to reach Monte Carlo final

Italy's Fabio Fognini returns a ball to Spain's Rafael Nadal during the semi final tennis match of the Monte-Carlo ATP Masters Series tournament in Monaco on April 20, 2019. (AFP / YANN COATSALIOU)
Updated 21 April 2019
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Fognini stuns Nadal 6-4, 6-2 to reach Monte Carlo final

  • Second-ranked Nadal called it “one of my worst matches in 14 years”
  • Fognini had beaten Nadal twice before on clay, and also once at the US Open in five sets

MONACO: Fabio Fognini ended Rafael Nadal’s winning streak at the Monte Carlo Masters, stunning the defending champion 6-4, 6-2 Saturday to reach the final for the first time and hand Nadal his first defeat here since a loss to Novak Djokovic in the 2015 semifinals.
Fognini had beaten Nadal twice before on clay, and also once at the US Open in five sets, but this was arguably the most impressive.
“I have the game to play against him,” the 13th-seeded Fognini said. “I had nothing to lose.”
He wasn’t concerned if Nadal was out of form.
“That’s not the question that I have to answer,” Fognini said. “I just say that I played an incredible match.”
Still, the second-ranked Nadal called it “one of my worst matches in 14 years” and the 32-year-old Spaniard said it was “difficult to find an explanation” for capitulating on his favored clay-court surface.
Yet the defeat could have been even more humiliating for Nadal, who had not lost a set here by 6-0 since the 2005 final — which he went on to win for the first of his record 11 titles.
Fognini came so close to drubbing him in the second set. He served for the match at 5-0 and 40-0, but Nadal saved three match points, broke back and held.
“I was lucky to win the two games,” said Nadal, who had not even lost a set here since conceding one in the second round against Britain’s Kyle Edmund in 2017.
Serving again for the match at 5-2, Fognini hit a superb forehand down the line on his fourth match point. He next plays unseeded Serb Dusan Lajovic in their first-ever meeting, and one few would have predicted.
Least of all Fognini.
He trailed by a set and 4-1 down during his first-round match against Andrey Rublev.
“If you told me at the beginning of the week ‘See you on Sunday (for the final),’ I would laugh in your face,” Fognini said.
The 48th-ranked Lajovic staged an impressive comeback of his own, meanwhile, rallying from 5-1 down to beat 10th-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1.
That match was a suitable appetizer to the higher drama which followed.
Nadal had dropped his first three service games Friday in his quarterfinal against Guido Pella, and the early signs were not good this time.
His first game against Fognini lasted 12 minutes, with Nadal saving four break points before conceding the first of six breaks of serve in the match.
In his quarterfinal and semifinal combined, Nadal conceded 23 break-point chances.
But whether Fognini, who previously lost 11 times to Nadal overall, could capitalize seemed uncertain.
The 31-year-old Italian can lose his temper on court, and it got the better of him during the fourth game.
With heavy winds swirling around the court, Fognini’s towel flew off his seat and landed on the clay during the first point. He complained to the umpire, perhaps to get the point replayed, and then angrily put the offending towel into his drinks box.
Nadal broke him to love to lead 3-1, and Fognini got a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“The chair umpire made a bad call,” Fognini said. “He gave me a warning for nothing.”
Fognini irate, Nadal serving for a 4-1 lead — another comfortable Nadal route to the final looked on.
But Fognini broke back to 3-2 and then broke Nadal to love in the ninth game with some momentous shot-making.
Momentum was on Fognini’s side, not to mention some luck.
Serving for the set at 5-4 and 30-30, his shot hit the net and turned into a perfect drop shot.
Fognini raised both arms in apology, and then superbly put away a volley at full stretch on the next point to clinch the set.
He hit a delightful two-handed, backhand cross-court winner to break at the start of the second set.
Nadal is usually the undisputed crowd favorite on the French Riviera, but shouts of “Fabio, Fabio, Fabio” rang out at the Monte Carlo Country Club.
Many Italian fans likely made the short trip along the coast from nearby San Remo — where Fognini grew up.
“It’s a big opportunity to them to come here and watch me play,” Fognini said. “I don’t know how many are coming tomorrow.”
Still, he should have most of the support against Lajovic, who earlier won 10 straight games to lead 4-0 in the second set before Medvedev finally again held serve.
It could have been an all-Serb semifinal but Medvedev knocked out the top-ranked Djokovic in Friday’s quarterfinals.
There have only been three winners here since 2005: Nadal, Djokovic (2013 and ‘15) and Stan Wawrinka (’14).
A new name will be on the trophy on Sunday.


Raptors beat Bucks to reach first NBA final

Updated 36 min 33 sec ago
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Raptors beat Bucks to reach first NBA final

TORONTO: Kawhi Leonard had 27 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Toronto Raptors into the NBA Finals for the first time with a 100-94 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.
The Raptors overcame a 15-point deficit to win the series in six games and will host the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.
Pascal Siakam scored 18 points, Kyle Lowry had 17 and Fred VanVleet 14 for the Raptors, who used a 26-3 run late in the third quarter and early in the fourth to turn the game in their favor.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 21 points and 11 rebounds, but the NBA’s top team in the regular season saw its bid for a first finals berth in 45 years come to a disappointing end with a fourth consecutive defeat.
Down 76-71 to start the fourth, the Raptors tied it with an 8-2 run while Leonard and Antetokounmpo were both on the bench. Ibaka’s dunk with 10:32 to go tied it at 78.
Antetokounmpo returned after a timeout, but Leonard kept sitting. That didn’t matter to Toronto, with Siakam’s basket giving the Raptors an 80-78 lead, their first lead since it was 6-3.
Leonard’s one-handed slam after Lowry’s steal gave Toronto an 87-79 lead with 6:46 to go before the Bucks responded. George Hill answered with a layup, Brook Lopez converted a three-point play and Antetokounmpo scored to cut it to 87-86 with 5:19 to go.
Lowry and Lopez swapped baskets before Gasol’s 3 put the Raptors up 92-88 with 3:50 left. After another basket by Lopez, Leonard made a 3 to push Toronto’s lead to 95-90 with 3:04 to play. It was Leonard’s first 3 after missing his first seven attempts of the game.
Toronto made 12 of 27 3-point attempts, including four of eight in the fourth quarter.
Siakam, who missed a pair of free throws late in the fourth quarter of Toronto’s double-overtime win in Game 3, hit one to make it 98-94. Leonard grabbed the rebound on the second and was fouled. He made both, putting the Raptors up 100-94 with 3.9 seconds to go.
Brogdon and Middleton each made a pair from long range as the Bucks shot 6 for 9 from 3-point range in the first and closed the quarter with 10 unanswered points to lead 31-18. Toronto shot 6 for 19 in the opening quarter, missing six straight twice in the first 12 minutes.
The Bucks extended their lead to 38-23 on a 3 by Ersan Ilyasova with 7:46 left until half. Toronto cut the gap to 46-43 on a 3 by VanVleet with 1:07 left in the second, but Eric Bledsoe answered with a 3 and Antetokounmpo split a pair at the line, giving the Bucks a 50-43 advantage at the intermission.
The lead went back to 15 in the third before Leonard finished the period with a flourish. He had eight points in the final 2:01 and Toronto closed with a 10-0 run, cutting a 15-point deficit to 76-71.
TIP-INS
Bucks: Milwaukee shot 4 for 16 in the second but three of its made baskets were 3-pointers. ... The Bucks had six points in the paint in the first half. ... Coach Mike Budenholzer was called for a technical foul on Milwaukee’s first possession of the second half. Leonard missed the free throw. ... Antetokounmpo shot 5 for 10 at the free throw line.
Raptors: Danny Green, who missed all three of his field goal attempts in 16 minutes in Game 5, had another rough night. Green shot 0 for 4 in 14 minutes. ... Leonard’s 17 rebounds were his most in any game this postseason. ... Lowry had eight assists.
DRAKE WATCH
Raptors fan and ‘global ambassador’ Drake sat in his regular seat adjacent to the Toronto bench. The rapper wore a black hoodie with ‘KAWHI ME A RIVER’ printed on the back.
UP NEXT
The NBA Finals comes to Canada for the first time when the Raptors host the Warriors on Thursday night. Toronto swept Golden State in the regular season.