ATP500 Hamburg: Fognini struggles, pleads for retirement but eventually prevails over Bedene. Nardi beaten by Carreño

After 11 encounters, Fabio Fognini defeated Aljaz Bedene for the seventh time in a row. In spite of the Italian’s superior start, the Slovenian managed to win the first set and maintain his place in the match. This rating is not similar to Bedene, as was demonstrated frequently on the court, and as a result, Fognini has repeatedly announced his decision to retire. After all that, the number one player in the world was able to keep his cool and win a difficult match—his 400th in a row.

There is a lot of action in the first few minutes of the match, with several victories and a high quality of play immediately apparent. Break points are quickly cancelled by Fognini, but he prevents his opponent from escaping in the first game’s 12-point battle. A backhand is not always a good idea, even if Bedene usually uses one. Fognini performs a stunning one-handed backhand pass while on the run to open the second game. On the forehand side of the court, he finds good angles and frequently aims for his opponent’s forehand when he can push. An incredible lob by Italy’s Federico Delbonis in the sixth game gets him his first break point of the match after 23 minutes of play. When Bedene misses a forehand, Fognini stretches, quickly gaining the break and taking the lead with the score of 5-2. Slovenia makes an effort to hold onto the lead, but the 61st ranked player makes no concessions and even thanks his opponent for another miscued forehand, which earned him the opening set, 6-3, in Slovenia’s favor

In the second set, Bedene gets off to a better start, first holding his serve on the advantages and then making the opening break of the match. Despite being ranked 285th in the world, Fognini replies wonderfully to the 30th break point by slamming his forehand volley long. Bedene, though, serves effectively and stops Arma di Taggia’s 35-year-attempt old’s to even the set with a solid bunt recovery, leading 3-0. When a point is lost, the Italian says, “It’s the period, it’s the period,” alluding to a moment in his career when he was less optimistic (with five defeats in the last six matches at ATP level). “Either I find a solution or I quit!” he utters in an incoherent tone. In the fifth game, Bedene committed two double faults and a forehand error that allowed Fognini to break back and level the match at 3-3. With the score 3-4 and the clock running out, 15-30, the player rated 61 makes two important blunders, including a double fault on the break ball. Clearly, this set continues with partials of three subsequent games. When Bedene takes the ninth game, he is forced to take the lead, but on the second set point he closes the match 6-3 with the help of a very fortunate tape.

As the crucial set approaches, Fognini begins to worry, and the Italian pulls off a miracle to keep from making a mistake. At least five break points must be avoided in the first game’s 18 points, but Fognini closes on the second opportunity by charging and establishing himself. He takes a warning in the process. Nothing to lose, it is a brutal conflict that swiftly turns into a nerve-wracking struggle. Only late in the match, when Bedene hooks Fognini at 4-4 with one game to zero left, does the match see another break point beyond the first. There are no serious chances for either side in the rest of the game and the sense that the players are merely waiting for the tiebreak at this point. After a backhand error by Fognini gave the Slovenian a minibreak at 6-6, the match goes to a tiebreak. Fognini, on the other hand, soon makes up for it with a great running forehand that quickly gets things back on track. With just two serves remaining, Bedene’s double fault gave the Italian a 4-1 lead and he capitalized on another error by his opponent (this time on his forehand). With two match points at stake, Fognini drops both his mini-breaks of lead and is forced to serve out the final two games. With a forehand winner in the final game, Fognini won 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5), giving him his first ATP victory since the first round at Roland Garros (6-4 7-5 6-4 to Popyrin). After today’s doubles match with Simone Bolelli, Karen Khachanov will be their next opponent on German soil (while the Russian will be alongside Andrey Rublev).