Fabio Fognini and Karen Khachanov face off in Rotterdam on Tuesday as they battle for a spot in the second round of the ATP 500 tournament.
Fognini vs Khachanov is live from Rotterdam on Tuesday, 11 February from 12:30pm local time/ 11:30am GMT
Fognini and Khachanov are returning to action for the first time since the Australian Open, where they both had decent but unspectacular campaigns.
World No. 11, Fognini made it to the second week in Melbourne, beating Reilly Opelka, Jordan Thompson (both in five sets), and Guido Pella in straights before falling to American, Tennys Sandgren in the fourth round.
Fognini had opened his season at the ATP Cup, where he won just one of his three round robin singles matches as Italy crashed out in the group phase of the team event. His solitary victory was against John Millman, while he lost to Casper Ruud and Daniil Medvedev. He also competed at the ASB Classic in Auckland, but fell at the first hurdle, losing to Feliciano Lopez in three sets.
The 32-year-old Fognini has been enjoying a late career boom, as he has finished each of the last two years inside the world’s top-15. Prior to that, he had never ended a year inside the top 15. He broke into the top-10 for the first time in June 2019, after reaching the fourth round of the French Open.
The major highlight of his 2019 season was in Monte Carlo, where he defeated Rafael Nadal on his way to winning his maiden Masters 1000 title. That Monte Carlo run came as a big surprise, as the Italian had made a poor start to the season (he was 4-8 heading into Monte Carlo), but he was more consistent after that title run in the principality, reaching quarter finals in Hamburg, Montreal, Beijing and Shanghai, and the fourth round at Roland Garros.
Fognini traditionally spends this time of the year competing in the brief South American clay-court swing, but he’s switched things around this year, opting to play in Rotterdam, where he opens against Karen Khachanov on Tuesday.
Khachanov had a good ATP Cup, winning four of his five singles matches to help Russia reach the semi-finals. He also played in Auckland, but was beaten by John Millman in the opening round.
Khachanov’s Australian Open campaign never really got going- he needed four sets to get past unheralded Spanish qualifier, Mario Viella Martinez in the first round, and a final set tie break to battle past Swedish young gun, Mikael Ymer in his second match in Melbourne.
The Russian finally came unstuck in the third round, falling in five sets to Nick Kyrgios. He showed great character to force a fifth set after being two sets and a break; and two match points down against Kyrgios, but it ultimately was not enough, as he lost 6-2 7-6 6-7 6-7 7-6 in a Melbourne epic.
After winning the Paris Masters at the end of 2018 to move to the brink of the top ten, Khachanov looked set to break into that bracket and consolidate his position among the elite group of men’s tennis in 2019. He did breach the top-ten, but he couldn’t consolidate. The Russian ended the season with no titles and no finals, with his best results being semi-finals in Montreal and Beijing. He also made quarter finals at Roland Garros, Indian Wells, Halle, Moscow and Vienna. He had his moments, but a lot more was expected from the Russian.
Khachanov is trying to address a terrible record in Rotterdam, where he has lost in the opening round in all of his three previous appearances (2017-2019).
He’s 1-1 against Tuesday’s opponent, Fognini. Both of their matches came within one week of each other in 2019- Khachanov winning in three sets in Beijing, and Fognini responding with a straight sets victory in Shanghai.
It’s very difficult to call this one. Khachanov is raw power, and when he finds his range, he can hit through anyone on these indoor courts like he showed in Paris a couple of years ago; Fognini, on the other hand is the mercurial shot-maker who is definitely not lacking in power.
If both are at their best, I’m siding with Fognini to get the win, but the Italian has never been the safest bet out there!