Fabio Fognini produced the performance of his career on Saturday to stun 11-time champion Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-2 at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, advancing to his first ATP Masters 1000 final.
Fognini claimed 11 of 14 games from 1-3 down in the first set to stun the 33-time Masters 1000 champion after one hour and 36 minutes. Fognini's fourth victory in 15 FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters against the 80-time tour-level titlist ends 18-match and 25-set winning streaks for Nadal in the Principality.
This is just the second time the World No. 18 has claimed victory against Top 2 opposition, adding to his 2017 triumph over then-World No. 1 Andy Murray at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. Fognini is also just the fourth man to claim three or more victories against Nadal on clay, following in the footsteps of Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and Gaston Gaudio. The Italian's previous two clay-court victories against Nadal came at the Rio Open presented by Claro and Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell in 2015.
Fognini entered the tournament on a five-match losing streak on clay and looked set to fall to a sixth straight defeat on the surface in his opening match. But after Andrey Rublev led the Italian 6-4, 4-1, Fognini found his best tennis and he has not looked back. Fognini defeated World No. 3 Alexander Zverev, ninth seed Borna Coric and Nadal to reach the championship match at the Monte-Carlo Country Club.
"If you told me at the beginning of the week, I will see you on Sunday, I would [have] laughed in your face," said Fognini. "I was 6-4, 4-1 down and break point for 5-1, and I [hit an] ace on the line. But that's incredible sport. So I was lucky. Now I'm in the final. And of course I go for the title tomorrow."