The former finalist at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia shone on a rainy day, the Italian shocked Andy Murray
A gray day made Rome look more like Wimbledon, but the courts of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia found their sunshine in the quality play of former finalist Stan Wawrinka.
The 38-year-old Swiss opened the main draw matches on the ATP side of this 80th edition of the tournament and it was a masterclass from the 3-time slam champion. Wawrinka dominated Ilya Ivashka with a clean and strong performance on the Campo Centrale. In 1 hour and 18 minutes, he closed 6-2 6-4 to book a spot in the second round against Grigor Dimitrov.
Wawrinka, who reached the final in Rome 15 years ago, showed how age is only a number for him and his powerful strokes can be just as effective as on his prime days. Little could Ivashka do to try and tame the heavy one-handed backhand that the Swiss used repeatedly to build his victory.
The morning drizzle that forced the organizers to postpone the start of the matches to 12.30 laid some shiny drops on the scars that remind everyone of the severe knee injuries that halted Wawrinka’s career. But the former world number 3 returned to Rome strong of his historic coach Magnus Norman, a sign that he wants to return to higher places than the number 83 in the world where he is sitting at the moment.
Another pair of veterans took on the Campo Centrale today in Rome as Fabio Fognini and Andy Murray heated a cold evening with an emotional battle. Despite both looking bothered by some physical issues, probably exacerbated by the heavy clay and humidity, they put on a show for the numerous fans that stayed for them. The Italian took an early break in the first set, capitalizing on it to win the first set, but Murray has never been someone who gives in without a fight. In a true display of grit, the match lived of the moments when glimpses of the quality that made them both champions of our sport were shown.
The Scotsman turned things around in the second set, finding the intensity to surprise Fognini and fly to a 5-1 lead. This was when the Italian dug deep and trying a desperate comeback, which came close to happening as he only surrendered the set getting broken on the 7th set point on 5-4.
Playing in front of his home crowd -including wife Flavia Pennetta-, Fognini kicked off the decider with the same intensity that got him close to reopening the previous set: after breaking his opponent in the first game, he never looked back and held with confidence until the very final game.
When the match time was minutes from 3 hours, the Italian crowd roared for the victory of Fognini as he fired an ace to seal the match 6-4 4-6 6-4.
Another quality first round match was the one between Marton Fucsovics and Filip Krajnovic. The two talented players battled on a packed court 2, giving a great display of tennis to the fans. At the end of a tight first set, in which the margins were as slim as they can be, the Hungarian player pulled away early in the second for a comfortable 6-4 6-2 victory.