Rafa Nadal suffered a shock 6-4 6-2 semi-final defeat against flamboyant Italian Fabio Fognini at the Monte Carlo Masters on Saturday, showing rare signs of weakness five weeks before the French Open.
The 11-time champion’s loss ended a series of 25 consecutive sets won on his favourite clay as Fognini set up a final showdown against Serbian Dusan Lajovic.
In windy conditions at the Monte Carlo Country Club, the 11-time French Open champion was overwhelmed by Fognini, who entered centre court with all guns blazing.
Fognini’s unpredictability, added to that of the weather conditions, were eventually too much for the Spanish world number two who bowed out on the fourth match point.
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It was world number 18 Fognini’s fourth career win against Nadal in 15 encounters, the third on the slowest surface.
Earlier, Lajovic reached his first Masters final when he mastered the windy conditions to beat Russian Daniil Medvedev 7-5 6-1.
Lajovic trailed 3-0 and 5-1 in the opening set before going through the gears.
The 10th-seeded Medvedev could not hold the pace as winds swept across centre court and Lajovic quickly moved 4-0 up in the second set against a frustrated opponent, who bowed out on the second match point.
“It was an incredible match today,” said world number 48 Lajovic, the lowest-ranked player to reach the final here since Hicham Arazi in 2001.
“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.”