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Fognini vs Lajovic ATP Monte-Carlo live streaming, preview and tips - Surprise final as Fognini and Lajovic target first Masters 1000 title

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 21 Apr 2019
  • Fabio Fognini vs Dusan Lajovic is live from Monte-Carlo at 2.30pm local time on Sunday (1.30pm BST)
  • It's the first career meeting between the pair
Fabio Fognini (PA Images)

Fabio Fognini and Dusan Lajovic conclude a crazy week at the Monte-Carlo Masters as the pair clash for the first time and target a maiden Masters 1000 title.

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After beating the two best clay court players in the world from the last couple of seasons, Fabio Fognini and Dusan Lajovic have an incredible opportunity to win a first Masters 1000 title when they square off in the Monte-Carlo final on Sunday. It’s the first time since Masters 1000 series tournament began in 1990 that the Monte-Carlo final will feature two first-time Masters 1000 finalists, with both players chasing a host of personal milestones in Sunday’s showpiece.

Fognini produced one of the finest performances of his enigmatic career to dethrone the King of Clay in a stunning semi-final on Saturday, with the Italian winning 11 of the last 14 games and coming back from 1-3 in the first set to conquer Rafael Nadal by a 6-4 6-2 scoreline, ending the Spaniard’s 18-match and 25-set winning streaks in the Principality. The win means Fognini is just the fourth man to secure three or more wins over Nadal on clay, joining Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and Gaston Gaudio, while it was also just the second top two win of his career after he also beat then-No. 1 Andy Murray in Rome two years ago.

Making Fognini’s run to the final all the more extraordinary is the number of comebacks he’s pulled off during the week, including recovering from 4-6 1-4 down in his opening round against Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev, while he also came back from 1-6 0-2 down to overcome Borna Coric in a thrilling quarter-final. Add in a straight sets triumph over Alexander Zverev, and this goes down as the best week of Fognini’s career.

"If you told me at the beginning of the week, I will see you on Sunday, I would [have] laughed in your face," said Fognini. "I was 6-4, 4-1 down and break point for 5-1, and I [hit an] ace on the line. But that's incredible sport. So I was lucky. Now I'm in the final. And of course I go for the title tomorrow."

It certainly didn’t look like Fognini was about to become the only Italian man to reach a Masters 1000 final prior to Monte-Carlo. The 31-year-old was only 4-8 for the season coming into the tournament and, sensationally, 0-4 on clay after going winless during the Golden Swing in South America in February, a state of the season where he usually flourishes. Indeed, Fognini also lost in the opening round of Marrakech last week in straight sets to Jiri Vesely, but the Italian - who has the ability to turn it on without warning - has recaptured his best tennis and is reaping the rewards this week in Monte-Carlo. Can he cap a stellar week with the biggest title of his career?

Lajovic meanwhile is trying to become the first player to win a maiden ATP title at a Masters 1000 tournament since Albert Portas in Hamburg in 2001, while he’s also looking to be the first unseeded player to win Monte-Carlo since Thomas Muster in 1992. The Serbian has been in outstanding form this week in the Principality, not dropping a set in victories over Malek Jaziri, David Goffin, Indian Wells champion and French Open runner-up Dominic Thiem, Lorenzo Sonego and Daniil Medvedev, who conquered Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals. It was looking like a quick elimination for Lajovic in Saturday’s semi-final with Medvedev as the Russian swiftly opened up a 5-1 lead, but the Serbian staged a fantastic fightback, winning 12 of the last 13 games to register a 7-5 6-1 win and become the lowest-ranked Monte-Carlo finalist (No. 48) since No. 53 Hicham Arazi in 2001.

"It was an incredible match today," said Lajovic. "I had the worst nightmare, falling down 5-1. But I won 10 games in a row, so I was able to find my rhythm and my game. In windy conditions like today, it was impossible to play real tennis and in the end I was able to hit my forehands better than him. I'm still unaware of my achievement in Monte-Carlo."

While Lajovic’s run is extremely surprising, it hasn’t come completely out of nowhere. The 28-year-old has put together the best 18 months of his career since undergoing hernia surgery towards the end of 2017, which caused him to lose 10 of his next 11 matches and fall outside the top 100 for the first time since 2015. Lajovic made his first Masters 1000 quarter-final in Madrid last year, beating Karen Khachanov and Juan Martin del Potro along the way, while he also claimed another top 10 scalp over Grigor Dimitrov to make the 500-level China Open quarter-finals. Lajovic his his career-high ranking of No. 42 when he reached the Doha quarter-finals at the start of 2019, while he scored his third top 10 victory by beating Kei Nishikori to advance to the third round of Miami in his last tournament. If he can win the final, Lajovic will soar into the top 20 for the first time, while Fognini will rise to a career-high ranking of No. 12.

Another mini sub-plot of this final is that Lajovic’s coach Jose Perlas (who is quietly regarded as one of the best coaches on tour), used to be Fognini’s coach, while Fognini’s  former physio Max Tosello is also currently in the Lajovic camp. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance for both players to win a coveted Masters 1000 title, but I’ve got to lean with Fognini. The Italian is playing some spellbinding tennis at the moment, combining jaw-dropping baseline play with some miraculous drop shots. It’s top five level tennis and if he can handle the occasion, he should be too flashy and too stylish for Lajovic, who will use his big forehand to try and open the court, but might lack that killer punch to stop Fognini if the Italian generates some momentum early.

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Fognini vs Lajovic ATP Monte-Carlo live streaming, preview and tips - Surprise final as Fognini and Lajovic target first Masters 1000 title

Fabio Fognini and Dusan Lajovic conclude a crazy week at the Monte-Carlo Masters as the pair clash for the first time and target a maiden Masters 1000 title.

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