Once the draw came out, the entire tennis world expected another clash between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo final but the crowd will have a chance to watch something completely different on Sunday. Just a day after Daniil Medvedev stunned Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal suffered humiliating 6-4, 6-2 loss to Fabio Fognini in just an hour and 36 minutes, sending the Italian into his first Masters 1000 final.
Heading to Monte Carlo with only four wins in 2019, Fognini managed to overcome a stern test in the opening round against Andrey Rublev and never looked back, toppling all the rivals to reach the semis where he dominated against the 11-time champion who won 71 out of previous 75 matches in the Principality!
Fabio knew what he has to do to beat Rafa and he delivered masterclass performance, taking the ball early and hitting bullets from both wings to outplay the rival completely. Nadal struggled against Guido Pella in the opening set yesterday and was far from his best today as well, lacking depth and precision that made him the best clay-court player of all time, powerless against a mighty strong opponent.
To make things even worse, Rafa served at 70% but that gave him pretty much nothing, unable to impose his shots or prolong the rallies and draw mistakes from the opponent who tamed his strokes nicely throughout the match, keeping the focus and determination that he can emerge as the winner.
Fognini grabbed almost 60% of the return points, creating ten break chances and converting six of those to control the scoreboard after a slower start, getting broken just three times to beat Rafa for the fourth time in 15 encounters.
Struggling to find the rhythm in windy conditions, they both needed some time to hit the zone, with Nadal leading 3-1 before Fabio shifted into a higher gear to claim five of the next six games and bring the opener home with a hold at 5-4.
Miles away from his usual level, Nadal found himself 5-0 down in set number two as he could only stand and watched Fognini's amazing strokes flying passed him, saving three match points in game six to avoid a complete disaster before Fabio sealed the deal with a backhand down the line winner at 5-2 for one of his career-best wins.
The Italian had 21 winners and 22 unforced errors, reducing Rafa to only ten direct points and 25 errors, dominating in the shortest and mid-range rallies to wrap up a perfect performance and get a chance to fight for the first Masters 1000 title against Dusan Lajovic.