The first match of the day on Court Centrale saw 16th seed Alexander Zverev dispatched Fabio Fognini, 6-3, 6-3 to advance to his third Masters 1000 quarterfinal of the year. The German was the first player to book his spot in the quarterfinals at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia and continue his preparations for the French Open. Zverev will play 12th seed Tomas Berdych, a semifinalist in 2013 or fifth seed Milos Raonic, a semifinalist in 2014 in the quarterfinals.
Fognini was unable to back up his victory over defending champion and world number one Andy Murray, nevertheless, the Italian will be off to his wife Flavia Pennetta's bedside as the duo are expected to have their first child within the next 24 hours. Zverev currently leads the ATP Next Gen Race to Milan leaderboard and he is 12th in the ATP World Tour, Race to London.
Zverev shines in the opening set
The German began the match in style coming out on top in a five-shot rally and placing a forehand winner in the corner. However, Fognini who has historically struggled in Rome, won the next point in a 22-shot rally, forcing the error from Zverev. Ultimately, Zverev held serve to lead 1-0. The former world number 12 held serve easily to level the match at 1-1 in the opening set. Once again, the world number 17 held nudged ahead in the scoreboard with a hold to love, leading 2-1.
Fognini was under the pressure in his second service game as he began it with a double fault, but he won the next two points drawing errors from Zverev in long rallies. However, a backhand winner down the line from the German in a 10 shot rally, followed by another forehand unforced error from Fognini, handed the 20-year-old the first break point of the match. Aggressive forehands from the unseeded Italian forced Zverev to draw errors and saved a break point. However, another break point quickly followed with a forehand winner stringing from the 20-year-old's racquet. A good serve down the middle from Fognini saved the second break point but another third break point chance for Zverev arrived, and inevitably he took it by virtue of another double fault by Fognini to lead 3-1.
Zverev consolidated the break to love to stretch out to a commanding 4-1 lead, the next two service games from both players were comfortable holds to love with the German with a healthy 5-2 lead. The current world number 29 in the eighth game had to serve to stay in the opening set, racing out to a 40-0 lead with good forehands to force more errors from Zverev. The trend stopped with love holds as Zverev garnered a forehand winner with help from the net, nevertheless, Fognini held to ensure that Zverev serves for the set.
The 16th seed raced out to a 40-15 lead with two set points in hand. However, a poor backhand unforced error in the net and Fognini extended the rally to 11 shots drew a backhand unforced error leveled the game to deuce. Nonetheless, the Next Gen star took advantage with a good serve out wide drawing the unforced error from the Italian to create a third set point. The two-time Masters 1000 quarterfinalist didn't hesitate to take it at the third time of asking to win the opening set in 32 minutes, 6-3 with a serve down the middle, drawing an error from Fognini ahead.
Zverev continues to play well in the second set despite a late wobble
Fognini's struggles continued in the first game of the second set as he quickly found himself at 0-30 after committing an unforced error in an 11 shot rally and a strong return from Zverev forced another error. The world number 29 won the next point but another unforced error from his racquet handed a break point for the German. A strong return on the baseline from the 6'6 player gave him an immediate break to lead 1-0.
Zverev consolidated the break to lead 2-0 but there was some controversy as Fognini wasn't happy with umpire Mohamed Lahyani's call which was spot on, Zverev's serve landed in and that clearly affected the Italian. The umpire shouted at Fognini, "stop talking, enough" and issued him a warning for firing a ball into the crowd. The inevitability occurred in the third game with Zverev breaking Fognini to lead 3-0.
However, it looked likely that the Italian would threaten Zverev's serve for the first time in the match as he raced out to a 0-30 position in this game. Fognini's good work would go undone as he played a poor drop shot which went wide, followed by an unforced error in the net and he had Zverev stranded at the net but his lob missed the baseline. The German consolidated his double break advantage coming out on top in a 10 shot rally with a backhand unforced error in the net.
Zverev was looking to get a triple break in the fifth game of the second set by racing out to a commanding 0-30 lead. Furthermore, the Italian-produced two good first serves out wide and a strong forehand to level the game at 30-30. A fourth double fault from the Italian gave the German a break point. A poor drop volley attempt from the 16th seed allowed Fognini to get off the hook. However, another break point chance was gifted for the world number 17 as he played a poor drop shot with good movement from Zverev to place it over the net. A fifth double point handed the German a break point but a scintillating forehand winner in the corner allowed the former world number 12 to save it. A couple of loose errors from Zverev got Fognini on the scoreboard trailing at 1-4.
The 16th seed easily held to love finishing the game with an excellent drop shot. Once again, the Italian had to hold serve to stay in the tournament, which he did with little trouble, finishing the game with a forehand winner placed in the corner. Uncharacteristically, Zverev got to a 30-15 lead but an untimely double fault and a couple of wayward unforced errors handed one of the breaks back for Fognini to trail 3-5.
The Italian was looking to extend this contest as he began the ninth game in the second set with a drop shot winner and good forehand in the corner, forcing the error from Zverev. However, he served another untimely double fault but the German done him a favor with a wild drop volley unforced error miscued. The former French Open quarterfinalist was unable to capitalize on one of his game points. The German leveled the game to deuce and a failed sliced drop shot hopelessly landed into the net. A five-shot rally and a tame unforced error in the net, handed Zverev a brilliant 6-3, 6-3 victory in under 1 hour and 20 minutes, becoming the first player to reach the quarterfinals at the Foro Italico.
Both players stats were quite respectable in this match. Fognini got 54 percent of his first serves in, whilst Zverev got 57 percent of his in. The Italian won 76 percent of his points on his first serve, in contrast of Zverev, who got 74 percent in that department. Both players converted 50 percent of their break point opportunities with the 16th seed breaking the Italian's serve four times out of eight whilst Fognini only managed to break the German once out of possible two chances.