Few players without a career title draw as much of a reaction out of tennis fans as Fabio Fognini. Known for his dramatic ups-and-downs, animated facial expressions, on-court theatrics, and eyebrows, this Italian tennis player, currently ranked 45, certainly knows how to make an impact. With career wins over Andy Murray and Gael Monfils, a career high ranking of 32, and a (controversial) French Open Quarterfinal to his name, he certainly seems to have the talent to be a force in the game. Earlier this year he reached his first ever career final in Bucharest (who could forget this), and concerned tennis fans are hopeful that he will go one step further - he has vowed not to shave his beard away until he wins a title. But rankings and victories are only a small part of the Fabio Fognini experience. Here’s what else you need to know.
1. He’s temperamental on the court, but very friendly off-court.
Fabio is most famous for his two epic French Open victories over Gael Monfils and Albert Montanes. In both matches his argumentative nature and flair for drama were on full display. In 2010, after his match against Monfils was called for darkness, Fabio went on a rampage. Monfils said, "At the cloak rooms he insulted everybody for 30 minutes…. It was not very friendly, but … you know, he's a nice guy."
Gael was right. He is a nice guy when a match isn’t on the line. He loves the Italians (more on that later), gets along well with all of the Spanish guys since he trains in Barcelona, and has recently taken to twitter (@Fabio_Fogna) to prove that he’s chummy with nearly everyone on tour.
2. He’s a great big brother.
(His sister is on the left, his girlfriend Svetoslava on the right.)
The video below shows just how tight the two are, even if I don’t understand a word. Sibling love needs no translation.
3. He holds the record for most Foot Faults in a victory.
As if the Fourth Round match against Montanes at the French Open last year wasn’t mind-boggling enough, it is also in the history books due to Fognini committing twelve foot faults and still managing to win the match!
Tom Perrotta did a wonderful write-up of the bizarre match for the Wall Street Journal:
The last five games were comical. Fognini served casually and was repeatedly called for foot faults, including consecutive foot faults for a double fault. He saved five match points in all, one with a perfect backhand dropshot from the baseline, one of the riskiest shots in the game. He cracked forehand winners and hit a perfect drop volley without bending his knees. (That one made him laugh.) Every time he was called for a foot fault, he smiled.
You can also watch the final game for yourself below. You have to see it to believe it.
4. He loves his country.
He was born and raised in Italy, and he is very devoted to his country. In this video, he declares his love for Italian food and Italian women.
But he also loves his fellow Italian tennis players. He is an impressive 9-2 in Davis Cup competition, and seems to have a blast and be at his best when he’s playing with his friends for his country. He and teammate Simone Bolelli - who he vacationed with last year in the Maldives (speedo pic below) – even made the semifinals of the U.S. Open last year in doubles.
5. His coach is José Perlas.
José Perlas used to coach such greats as Carlos Moya, Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Albert Montanes. Most recently he worked with Nicolas Almagro, bringing out the best tennis in the Spaniard. He and Fognini joined forces in December, and the partnership seems to be paying immediate dividends.
(Perlas is on the left)
And amazing Fognini and team practice videos, such as this. (The man with his pants down at the end is Fabio’s physio, Marc Boada.)
6. He’s a prankster
In 2010, Fabio played an April Fools joke on his fans. He put up a blog on his website saying that he had been conscripted (forced to enter the Italian military). The joke went so far as to have a photoshopped copy of his conscription notices and to include a picture of himself saluting.
Thanks to the glory of the internet, you can see the prank here.
7. He’s very superstitious.
He always wears a necklace filled with special mementos from loved ones, and you can often see him fiddling with it after good points during matches.
He talks about the necklace in the video below, after a minute-long laugh-fest with Pere Riba. (The video is from Auckland in 2011, and is a must-watch.)
8. He has a “grumpy” tattoo.
On his hip he has a tattoo of Brontolo, one of the seven dwarfs. Brontolo is known in English as “Grumpy” – the names comes from the Italian word "brontolare", which means “to nag". At least he’s self aware?
9. He’s very graceful.
Check out his net-rushing skills below:
10. He can strike a pose.
His Italian good looks are the reason that many become fans, and he took to his website recently to showcase his modeling skills in the way that only Fabio Fognini can.
Photos via Fabio's Facebook and Twitter accounts