Rafael Nadal suffered a shock 6-4, 6-2 semi-final defeat against flamboyant Italian Fabio Fognini at the Monte Carlo Masters yesterday, showing rare signs of weakness five weeks before the French Open.
The 11-times champion’s loss ended a series of 25 consecutive sets won on his favourite clay as Fognini set up a final showdown against Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic.
In windy conditions at the Monte Carlo Country Club, Nadal was overwhelmed by Fognini, who entered centre court with all guns blazing. Fognini’s unpredictability, added to that of the weather conditions, were eventually too much for the Spanish world No 2, who lost 11 of 14 games after going 3-1 up in the first set.
He finally bowed out on the fourth match point, having saved three of these while 5-0 down in the second set and – having fended off the prospect of a rare bagel – Nadal recovered to 5-2, but his opponent closed out at the next serving opportunity.
It was world No 18 Fognini’s fourth career win against Nadal in 15 encounters, and his third on clay.
Earlier, Lajovic reached his first Masters final when he mastered the windy conditions to beat Russian Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1. Lajovic trailed 3-0 and 5-1 in the opening set before going through the gears.
The 10th-seeded Medvedev could not hold the pace as winds swept across centre court and Lajovic quickly moved 4-0 up in the second set against a frustrated opponent, who bowed out on the second match point.
“It was an incredible match today,” said world number 48 Lajovic, the lowest-ranked player to reach the final here since Hicham Arazi in 2001. I had the worst nightmare, falling down 5-1. But I won 10 games in a row, so I was able to find my rhythm and my game.
“In windy conditions like today, it was impossible to play real tennis and in the end I was able to hit my forehands better than him. I’m still unaware of my achievement in Monte Carlo.”