MONACO — Fabio Fognini ended Rafael Nadal’s long winning streak at the Monte Carlo Masters, stunning the defending champion 6-4, 6-2 Saturday to reach the final for the first time and hand Nadal his first defeat here since 2015.
The 13th-seeded Italian had beaten Nadal twice before on clay, and also once at the U.S. Open in five sets, but this was arguably the most impressive.
Not since the 2005 final, a five-setter which Nadal won in four sets, had the 11-time champion Nadal been beaten 6-0 in a set here. And Fognini came so close to doing just that.
He served for the match at 5-0 and 40-0, but Nadal saved three match points – and some pride – by breaking back and then holding.
Serving again for the match at 5-2, Fognini hit a superb forehand down the line to clinch victory on his fourth match point.
Nadal’s last defeat here was also in the semifinals, against Novak Djokovic in 2015. He had not lost a set at the clay-court tournament since conceding one in the second round against Britain’s Kyle Edmund in 2017.
Fognini next plays unseeded Serb Dusan Lajovic in their first-ever meeting, and one few would have predicted happening here.
The 48th-ranked Lajovic earlier staged a remarkable comeback from 5-1 down to beat 10th-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1.
Lajovic won 10 straight games to open up a 4-0 lead in the second set before Medvedev finally held serve. But after saving one match point, the Russian player tamely hit a return long on his opponent’s next opportunity.
It could have been an all-Serb semifinal but Medvedev knocked out the top-ranked Djokovic in Friday’s quarterfinals.
Saturday’s match started in difficult conditions, with a heavy wind coming in from the Mediterranean.
Serving for the first set at 5-1, Medvedev dropped his serve and remonstrated with himself.
Lajovic clinched the first set on serve, with Medvedev completely mistiming the ball and sending it skyward.
The 28-year-old Lajovic was ill before the tournament and said he needed antibiotics to recover.
He struggled to describe his surprise run.
“Incredible … Unreal,” he said, before settling on “It’s been a great week.”