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Dominic Thiem vs Fabio Fognini ATP Rome Preview, Predictions and Live Stream: Thiem looks to maintain perfect record over dangerous Fognini

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 15 May 2018
  • Dominic Thiem vs Fabio Fognini is live from Rome on Wednesday, 16 May from 12:00pm local time/ 11:00am BST
  • Thiem has won both previous matches in straight sets
Dominic Thiem. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Dominic Thiem faces a difficult start to his Rome Masters campaign as he takes the unpredictable home favourite, Fabio Fognini in the second round on Wednesday. 

Thiem remains the widely-acclaimed second-best clay-court player behind Rafael Nadal, but with Alexander Zverev rounding off into terrific form ahead of Roland Garros, the Austrian is in danger of losing that tag. In fact, if we go by the numbers, Zverev, who has won Munich and Madrid, is arguably leading the race behind Nadal. The German of course took out Thiem very comfortably in the Madrid final. For all Thiem has done in clay over the last couple of seasons, he is yet to win a Masters 1000 title on the surface, or on any surface for that matter, while Zverev has won three of those, including two on clay. The two-time Roland Garros semi-finalist needs a strong performance in the last big clay-court tournament before the French Open to re-assert himself as the No. 2 contender for the Roland Garros title. (Of course, Nadal remains the undisputed number one, even if he crashes out in the opening round in Rome!). 

The biggest problem with Thiem seems to be his apparent inability to secure back-to-back big wins in major tournaments. The most recent example of this was in Madrid last week, where he played his best tennis of the season to taken down Nadal in the quarter finals. He expectedly defeated Kevin Anderson in the semis, but he was decidedly second best against Zverev in the final, barely making an impression on the German in a 6-4 6-4 defeat. A similar scenario played out in Rome last year- he took out Nadal in the quarter finals; but won just one game in a crushing loss to Novak Djokovic in the semis. Fast forward to Roland Garros 2017, where he played out of his skins to take out Djokovic in the quarter finals, only to tumble into a third-set bagel against Nadal in the next round. It's an emerging pattern which presents a serious case against his Grand Slam chances, as it is almost impossible to go through a Slam without winning at least two of these big matches. (He can get lucky though, especially with the rate at which top players are dropping down injured!).

Thiem had his traditional struggles on hard courts, notably falling to Tennys Sandgren in the fourth round, thus missing a massive opportunity with the draw opening up in Melbourne. He picked up an ankle injury at Indian Wells, and subsequently pulled out of the Miami Open. That seemed to affect him early on in the clay court season, as he struggled into the quarter finals in Monte Carlo, before being blown away by Nadal. He also reached the last eight in Barcelona, but fell tamely to Greek youngster gun, Stefanos Tsitsipas. Even in Madrid, where he made the final, he could have been out in the opening two rounds, needing three sets to come through Federico Delbonis and Borna Coric. Coric actually served for the match in the second set, but the Croatian faltered on the line, allowing Thiem back into the tournament. The Austrian made excellent use of that second life, raising his level dramatically to take out Nadal, but he couldn't quite go all the way, falling to an inspired Zverev in the final. 

Having now made two Masters 1000 finals on clay- in Rome last year, and Madrid last week- can he go one better in the Italian capital this week and claim his first title at this level? He's got a tough one against Fognini first up on Wednesday. 

Fognini had made a fine start to the season, particularly flourishing on South American clay, where he won the Sao Paulo title and was a semi-finalist in Rio. The Italian had a decent beginning on hard courts too, reaching the semi-finals in Sydney, the fourth round at the Australian Open, but since the turn of March, he had won just two matches heading into the Rome Masters. 

Fognini lost to Jeremy Chardy in the opening round at Indian Wells, before falling to Nick Kyrgios in the third round in Miami. That poor run of results extended into the European clay season, as he fell to Jan-Lennard Struff in the second round in Monte Carlo, before suffering consecutive opening round defeats to Marco Cecchinato and Leonardo Mayer in Munich and Madrid respectively. 

However, the Italian looked in superb touch in his Rome opener against Gael Monfils, delighting the home crowd with a superb 6-3 6-1 victory. Fognini's movement, touch and ball-striking skills were all in evidence on Monday, with the forehand doing most of the damage as he recorded his milestone 300th career win. He didn't face a single break point throughout the 54-minute dispatch; and finished off winning 12 of the last 13 points. 

If he plays that way against Thiem, he's going to make life extremely difficult for the Austrian. The world number 21 doesn't have the best record in Rome, where he has never gone beyond the third round, but he has reached that stage in two of the last three years, and now stands one win away from matching those results.

Fognini didn't take a set off Thiem in any of their two previous meetings- in fact, he was comprehensively beaten on both occasions, including a 6-3 6-0 defeat in their only encounter on clay in Munich 2015. Thiem's muscular brand of tennis has often proved too good for Fognini, and if the Austrian brings out his A game, he should once again get through this comfortably. However, he has only played well in patches this season, and given what I saw in Fognini's opening match against Monfils, I’m not completely ruling out an upset in this one!

Dominic Thiem vs Fabio Fognini is live from Rome on Wednesday, 16 May from 12:00pm local time/ 11:00am BST

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Dominic Thiem vs Fabio Fognini ATP Rome Preview, Predictions and Live Stream: Thiem looks to maintain perfect record over dangerous Fognini

Dominic Thiem begins his Rome campaign against Fabio Fognini on Wednesday. Can Thiem maintain his perfect record against the Italian? Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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