Italy’s Fabio Fognini beat  Rafael Nadal in the semifinals  at the Monte Carlo Tennis Masters. Fognini plays Dusan Lajovic Sunday for the title. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Italy’s Fabio Fognini beat Rafael Nadal in the semifinals at the Monte Carlo Tennis Masters. Fognini plays Dusan Lajovic Sunday for the title. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)Associated Press

Tennis: Abrams picks the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters 1000 Final, Fabio Fognini vs. Dusan Lajovic

The match begins at 8:30 am EDT

Monte Carlo Masters 1000
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Sunday, April 21, 2019

Fabio Fognini over Dusan Lajovic
The day after both Rafa Nadal and Daniil Medvedev both went down in the semis, their conquerors, Fabio Fognini and Dusan Lajovic, respectively, will play for the championship of the Monte Carlo Masters 1000 tournament in the principality of Monaco.

The giant surprise of the Saturday Massacre was the complete demolition of the greatest clay court player in history, Spain’s Rafael Nadal, by Italian favorite son Fabio Fognini, 6-4, 6-2. The destruction was so complete that it looked like Nadal was injured, but after the match Nadal simply said that he played poorly—perhaps his worst match on clay in 14 years, and that he was beat by the better player. Everyone connected to the Tour knows how talented a player Fognini is, but he is so inconsistent that it is hard to think he’s going to win a first round match let alone beat the world’s best clay court player on his favorite surface. Yet, after turning around his quarterfinal match with Borna Coric mid-match and then playing some absolutely stunning tennis, the Italian continued to play inspired, error-free, striking tennis from start to finish against Nadal. The conditions were difficult with the wind swirling on the court that is bounded on three sides by stands and the fourth by a magnificent view of the French Riveria. But it was difficult for both players, and Fognini tamed the elements and played perhaps the match of his lifetime.

With the excitement over Fognini’s masterpiece win over Nadal it would be easy to forget about the other half of the draw. But let’s not simply dismiss Serbian Dusan Lajovic. In a match in which he was clearly the underdog, Lajovic hit winners and controlled the tempo with his strategic play against Russian Daniil Medvedev. There were times when it appeared that Medvedev just couldn’t believe that Lajovic could continue to hit winners and the Russian simply put the ball back in play waiting for his opponent to make an error. But the errors never came. Lajovic continually made Medvedev pay for that strategy, especially in the second set when the Serb hit winner after winner, controlled the match, and walked away with a 7-5, 6-1 convincing win. Reaching the finals will allow Lajovic to move up to the Top 25 when the new rankings come out on Monday, and he plays his first round match against 20-year-old Hungarian Mate Valkusz in the Hungarian Open.

As the participants scatter to both Budapest and Barcelona for the next clay court stops on the ATP Tour, Fognini and Lajovic will do battle for the first time to determine the champion of Monte Carlo. This is a really easy call. If Fognini plays like he did against Andrey Rublev, Sascha Zverev, Coric and Nadal, he will win. If he falters at all, Lajovic will win his first title and collect the more than 985,000 Euros the champion earns. No matter who wins, though, it is instructive to remember that four of the top five players were in this tournament, and no matter who is left standing at the end of the day, the winner deserves everything he’s going to get.

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