Two years ago, the defending Canada Open champion Rafael Nadal advanced to the semi-final in Montreal following a 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 triumph over Fabio Fognini in just under two hours. It was Nadal's 72nd Masters 1000 semi-final, making a slow start before finding his A-game to race past the opponent who struggled with an injury, telling Rafa at the net that he considers surgery.
Three months earlier, Fognini delivered one of Nadal's most brutal losses on clay in Monte Carlo and was on the right course to repeat that in Montreal. After a slower start, Rafa shifted into a higher gear to secure the 380th Masters 1000 victory and the 40th of the season.
Rafa started to dictate the pace once he found a rhythm on his backhand, hitting 20 winners and 22 unforced errors and leaving the Italian on an 18-34 ratio. The Spaniard had the upper hand in the shortest points up to four strokes and improved that segment of his game in comparison to the previous clash against Guido Pella.
Rafael Nadal defeated Fabio Fognini in three sets in Montreal 2019.
The Spaniard lost just five points behind the first serve and dropped 12 points behind the initial shot in sets two and three to mount the pressure on Fabio, who struggled more and more with an ankle injury, unable to move as he would want in the encounter's closing stages.
Nothing worked in Nadal's favor in the opening set, struggling to find the first serve and suffering a break in game three after a loose forehand. Another weak forehand cost Rafa his service game at 1-3, allowing Fognini to grab the opener with four winners in game eight.
With no room for errors, Nadal started to fire from all cylinders in set number two despite still serving at 54%, breaking at love in game two following Fabio's double fault and saving a break chance in game five to remain in front.
He stole Fognini's serve in the next one to increase the lead and clinched the set with two service winners at 5-1 to gather momentum ahead of the decider. Rafa broke in the first game thanks to his rival's backhand error, moved 4-1 forward after a wild forehand from the Italian and sealed the deal with a hold at 15 in game eight to stay on the title course.