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4 Times Fabio Fognini Shocked Rafael Nadal, Including Their Epic US Open Clash

Puranjay Dixit

Four Times Fabio Fognini Shocked Rafael Nadal, Including US Open Clash

Rafael Nadal is not the only player to potentially play their last season in 2024. Rumours suggest that Fabio Fognini will also hang up his boots sometime in the upcoming year. The veteran is one of the few players whose favourite surface was clay, despite playing in the same era as the ‘King of Clay’, Nadal.

Fognini dropped hints about an impending retirement a few times this year. He has endured a tough 2023 season, ranked outside the top 120 for almost the entire season. He mounted a late-season push to break into the top 100, winning the Valencia Challenger. However, an injury forced him to retire from the Maia Challenger. He finished the season as World No. 107, missing out on automatic qualification for the 2024 Australian Open by three spots.

The former World No.9 will have to battle through the qualifiers for one of the 16 positions. There are also eight wildcard spots in the main draw, but there is no certainty he will get one.

Fognini’s situation contrasts that of Nadal. The 22-time Majors champion will not face such struggles to qualify, despite being ranked outside the top 600. He will use his Protected Ranking to get directly into the main draw. If he fails to apply on time with his PR, the organisers will surely hand him a wildcard, given his legendary status.

Fognini has a storied history with Nadal because of their shared love of clay courts. The former collected four wins over the Spaniard, including three on clay. The overall head-to-head, however, is understandably skewed at 14-4 in Nadal’s favour.

Here are the four occasions Fabio Fognini managed to surprise Rafael Nadal:

1. Fabio Fognini got his first win over Rafael Nadal at the 2015 Rio Open

Nadal was the top seed at the 2015 Rio Open and was expected to lift the ATP 500 clay court title. Fognini, meanwhile, came in seeded fourth. The duo squared off in the semi-finals. Until that point, Nadal had won all four of their clashes, including two on clay. It looked like this match, too, would go in his favour after he inflicted a breadstick in the first set.

Fognini, however, bounced back to upset all calculations. He bagged the next two sets to win 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 and eliminate Nadal. The first seed’s countryman, David Ferrer, took revenge on his behalf and defeated Fognini in the final.

2. Fognini won his second match on the trot against Nadal at the 2015 Barcelona Open

Barely a couple of months after their semi-final in Brazil, Nadal and Fognini met again. This time, it was the third round of the Barcelona Open, again on clay.

Fognini beat a young Andrey Rublev, then a One Direction cover singer, in three sets before facing Nadal. The Italian looked in great touch and downed his opponent in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6(6). Such an early exit for Nadal on his favourite surface, in his home country, made it one of the biggest upsets that year.

Once again, a fellow Spaniard avenged Nadal. Eventual runner-up Pablo Andujar defeated Fognini in the very next match.

3. Fognini’s third win over Nadal; same year, different surface

2015 was a big year for the Nadal-Fognini rivalry. They faced five times, with the latter winning thrice. At the end of the season, their overall head-to-head stood at 6-3 in the former’s favour.

Their fourth clash of 2015 was perhaps the biggest and the best. The duo squared off in the third round of the 2015 US Open. Nadal hit the ground running and took a two-set lead. Fognini, however, did not back down and mounted an incredible comeback. He managed to win 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the next round.

This was Nadal’s first-ever loss in Grand Slams after having won the first two sets. #32 seed Fognini’s win meant his opponent’s 10-year streak of winning at least one Majors every season came to an end.

For the third time in a row, a compatriot avenged Nadal’s defeat. Feliciano Lopez beat Fognini in the fourth round, the Italian’s best US Open result.

4. Fabio Fognini had to wait four years for his next victory over Rafael Nadal

After Fognini defeated him thrice in 2015, Nadal charged ahead with vengeance. He won each of their next six matches over four years.

The Italian broke this streak in 2019 en route the biggest triumph of his career. Fognini beat Nadal in the semi-finals of the 2019 Monte Carlo Masters, one of three clay court ATP 1000 events. To get to the final four stage, the #13 seed got the best of higher-seeded players like Alexander Zverev and Borna Coric.

He continued his momentum and downed three-time defending champion Nadal in the semi-finals. Fognini won 6-4, 6-2 to cut short the Spaniard’s campaign for a fourth consecutive, and 12th overall, title in Monte Carlo. This was a massive upset given Nadal’s pedigree in the competition.

This time, there was no other Spanish player to take revenge on Fognini. The Italian beat unseeded Dusan Lajovic in the final to bag his only ATP Masters title, the biggest trophy in his cabinet.

About the author

Puranjay Dixit

Puranjay Dixit


Puranjay is a Tennis Journalist at The SportsRush. He has written more than 300 articles on the sport. Ask him anything about tennis and he is ready to come up with well-crafted answers. He has been following tennis ever since his parents introduced him to the game when he was 10. His favourite player may be Rafael Nadal, but ask him who's the GOAT, and he'll say, Novak Djokovic. He may be pursuing a degree in an unrelated field, but creating quality sports content remains his first love.

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