Leave it to Fabio Fognini to become the first unseeded semifinalist at the Miami Open in ten years. To call this 29-year-old Italian enigmatic is an understatement. Fognini’s career has been a roller-coaster. Ranked as high as #13 in 2014, by the end of 2016 he’d sunk to #49.
At his best, Fognini is a supremely elegant ball-striker. Exquisitely balanced, relaxed and versatile, Fognini’s strokes have a fluid, powerful quality that transforms craftsmanship into the rare and sublime realm of artistry. Certainly his mix of pace and precision, function and feel, was on display in the quarterfinals, when he dismissed ’16 Miami Open finalist Kei Nishikori, 6-4, 6-2 in a brisk 68 minutes.
But then there is the indifferent Fabio, a man who can hardly be bothered to concentrate and at times appears to be tanking – at which point he might well start hitting winners. When Fognini enters that space, his matches take on a theatrical, cinematic quality, marked by tantrums, wisecracks and the signs of a man not too comfortable under pressure.
One wonders if Fognini is familiar with his compatriot, the famous film director, Federico Fellini, a man who’s highly creative films blended dreams and reality, a cascading carnival of cross-cut images that emerged from the director’s highly subjective view of the world. Said Fellini, “When I start a picture, I always have a script, but I change it every day. I put in what occurs to me that day out of my imagination. You start on a voyage; you know where you will end up but not what will occur along the way. You want to be surprised.” That’s a pretty good description of a Fognini match – or even a single point.