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Fabio Fognini Earns 400th Win In Hamburg | ATP Tours

The Fabulous One looks out from his enigmatic photo on the ATP Tour website with a slightly raised eyebrow and a Mona Lisa half-smile. It’s the perfect image for a guy, who like a jalapeno-laced martini, is somehow simultaneously fiery and irresistibly cool.

On Tuesday in the Hamburg European Open, Fabio Fognini won a typically taut, fraught first-round match over Aljaz Bedene, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5). And while the flamboyant Italian has earned a reputation for the sheer style of his performance art, this one underlined the undeniable substance. It was the 400th tour-level match win of his career.

Coming up in juniors, did he ever imagine this possibility?

“Well, no, no,” he said afterward. “I’m 35 and, looking back, I have to say this is a great milestone achievement for me. For sure, I am happy.”

Fognini, that swashbuckling pirate of the high seas, is only the 14th active player to win 400 matches in his career and the first Italian man in the Open Era with 400 tour-level wins. Adriano Panatta is next with 392 wins, followed by Andreas Seppi with 386 wins, second-most among active Italians.

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Fognini celebrates his 400th win in Hamburg. Photo Credit: Hamburg European Open/Alexander Scheuber

There is currently some breathtaking young talent coming out of Italy. Matteo Berrettini, a Wimbledon finalist a year ago, has already been to the Top 10. Jannik Sinner — at the impressionable age of 20 — is there right now. Lorenzo Musetti, also 20, and Lorenzo Sonego are formidable talents as well. Based on this year’s points, remarkably, eight of the 17 top-ranked players aged under 21 are from Italy. It seems more than a coincidence that the Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin ends in Fognini’s homeland.

They there owe a debt to the example carved out by Fognini.

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Three years ago in Monte Carlo, at the age of 32, Fognini defeated Rafael Nadal on his way to the title. He became the first Italian ATP Masters 1000 champion ever and, eventually, the oldest male player to crack the Top 10 for the first time. He was also the first Italian man among the Top 10 since Corrado Barazzutti.

Fognini has always gotten up for the big matches. He’s beaten Nadal, a 22-time Grand Slam champion, no fewer than three times. At Rome in 2017, he upset World No. 1 Andy Murray. He was a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros in 2011 and reached the fourth round in majors – including four at the Australian Open – seven times. He’s also won nine singles titles.

Some context: Fognini’s first ATP Tour victory came in 2006 at Amersfoot, over Juan-Pablo Guzman. No. 100 came against Edouard Roger-Vasselin at the 2012 US Open. The 200th was a second-round win over Grigor Dimitrov in Rome 2015. His 300th career victory happened in Rome 2018 against Gael Monfils.

The win over Bedene, Fognini said, reminded him of another Hamburg achievement. In 2013, he won the title there amid a 13-match win streak that included the title in Stuttgart and a final in Umag.

“We are in Hamburg, so I have to say something about this beautiful tournament,” Fognini said. “A long time ago, I made a really good memory, playing really good tennis. This, too, is one of the best.”

His game is flashy and fast – sharp angles and extraordinary defense – but he makes it all look so utterly effortless. He is not blessed with massive weapons but his hands on him, particularly at net, are magnificent. In 2015, when Fognini focused briefly on doubles with countryman Simone Bolelli, they won the Australian Open, reached three ATP Masters 1000 finals and qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals.

Clay, where his record is 228-164 (.582), is by far the best surface for his unique talents. His relatively late career success continues. Fognini is 14-13 for the year and reached semi-finals in Belgrade and Rio de Janeiro, where he lost, respectively, to Andrey Rublev and Carlos Alcaraz.

After Bedene drew even by winning the second set, Fognini opened the third set with some vintage Fognini. In the process of saving five break points, he cracked his racquet in frustration, then managed to prevail in a 14-minute game. The tie-break ended with the familiar flourish of a crosscourt forehand winner.

Fognini, son of Fulvio Fognini and brother to Fulvia, was born into a family that placed special emphasis on the letter F. He continued the trend when he married 2015 US Open champion Flavia Pennetta. Their three children are, not surprisingly, named Federico, Farah and Flaminia.

He sees a time, probably in the not-too-distant future, when he’ll be spending more time with them.

“With COVID-19 and injuries, this has been the tougher period of my career,” he acknowledged. “Because after all the victories, the bad matches, the good matches, the trophies that I won, I’m more at the end of my career than before.

“My biggest dream is now to try and enjoy as before, running without pain, fighting to the end — and then decide when it’s time for the family. I know it’s going to be difficult, but let’s see. Let’s see.”

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