Fabio Fognini wins maiden Masters title

Rafael Nada celebrates his victory. More

Italy's Fabio Fognini thrilled a crowd composed mainly of his countrymen as he defeated Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-4 to win the Monte Carlo Masters on Sunday.

Rafael Nadal described his performance against Fabio Fognini as one of his worst on clay in 14 years after a surprise semi-final exit at the Monte Carlo Masters.

The next ATP Masters 1000 competition is due to be the Madrid Open from May 5 to May 12.

The second set would be just as close, and packed with quality shot-making, angle, touch, and not a little great defence-and with the kind of flair on both sides that tennis fans in these parts relish.

Questions if the loss is just an aberration or have players figured out how to conquer Nadal on a surface that he has made his very own will be answered over the next month leading up to the French Open, but the upset meant the weird season continued to baffle with its unpredictability.

He is the first Italian to take the Monte Carlo crown since Nicola Pietrangeli in 1968 and will rise to number 12 in the world rankings.

There was an exchange of breaks in the first two games, but again the Italian edged the lead in the fifth game as Lajovic pushed a forehand wide on break point.

As I mentioned yesterday, Fognini can exhibit an extremely high peak level when at his best, but the problem with the enigmatic Italian is that this just doesn't happen very often. Yes, he could freeze on the big stage in his first Grand Slam final, and yes, Fognini could come on court and play lights out as he occasionally is capable of doing.

But whether Fognini, who previously lost 11 times to Nadal overall, could capitalize seemed uncertain. Pietrangeli also won the trophy in 1961 and 1967.

Fabio Fognini celebrates with the winner's trophy after winning the Monte Carlo Masters. The 85-year-old Pietrangeli, a two-time French Open victor, stood and applauded as Fognini dropped to his knees to kiss the surface. "It was the worst nightmare, being 5-1 down", Lajovic said."I'm still unaware of reaching the final, but I'm enjoying it", added the player who has not dropped a set all week. He came onto the court after the trophy ceremony to pose for pictures with his new tennis heir.

Fognini looked to be temporarily hampered as he limped momentarily after breaking Lajovic for 3-2 in the second after claiming the opening set in 44 minutes.

Lajovic had a break point when Fognini served for the set but the Italian held firm and drilled a brilliant backhand down the line for his 12th victor to wrap up the opener. Like Nadal, the unseeded Lajovic hasn't lost a set this week.

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