Andy Murray fell to Fabio Fognini yesterday in his second-round match at the Italian Open, 6-2, 6-4. While Fognini’s multifaceted game is much bigger than his No. 29 ranking might suggest—he’s one of two people to take a set off Rafael Nadal this clay season—that’s little solace for Murray, who was upset by 20-year-old Borna Coric last week at Madrid, and will now leave Rome without winning a set. Last year he won this tournament without dropping a set.
This one wasn’t even close. Fognini and his compact strokes outclassed Murray from the baseline, earning him his first career win over a world No. 1.
Murray has struggled with shingles and an elbow injury over the last few months, but one game away from loss and immensely frustrated, he diagnosed a different issue, loud enough for anyone to hear. Fognini must have been paying attention.
Movement is the linchpin of Murray’s game—he’s never been known for blowing his opponent off the court with raw pace, but rather for his defensive acumen and ability to slowly wrench a rally away from his opponent. Very little of that meticulous point construction was on display in this match, which Fognini dominated with confident shot-making.
One place Andy Murray will have no trouble moving: down the rankings. He was defending 1,000 ranking points at Rome, and another 1,200 points at the French Open, where he lost in last year’s final to Novak Djokovic. Luckily for Murray, No. 2 Djokovic is not exactly nipping at his heels, given his own prolonged slump, and No. 3 Stan Wawrinka hasn’t had any luck on clay. But the same could not be said for Rafael Nadal, who just ripped three straight titles and unseated a long-absent Roger Federer as No. 4; given how weak the rest of the field looks, Rafa seems perfectly capable of passing Murray up for the top rank before the season is through.