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News & Photos / Articles / Fognini outlasts Montanes in five-set epic

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Injury timeout

Fabio Fognini became the first Italian man to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam in 13 years, defeating Albert Montanes 4-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 11-9 in a four-and-a-half hour epic.

The Lenglen crowd booed Fognini in the 95-minute final set as he took a medical time-out then received further treatment at the change-overs for what the fans perceived as cramp - an ailment for which players are not allowed to call out the medical staff. In the end, the 49-ranked player in the world completed the match with heavy strapping on his left thigh and a hang-dog expression on his face as he pleaded with the crowd for clemency.

Long, drawn-out

The first three hours of the match certainly did not presage such a dramatic denouement. It was a classic clay-court battle between two grinders - the impassive 30-year-old Montanes who has quietly amassed five titles in his career, all of them on red dirt, and the expressive, Latin-tempered Fognini who turned 24 last week and is enjoying his highest-ever ranking (set to hit no.33 after today's win)

It was nip and tuck for four sets with one break separating the two in each of the four chapters, no doubt due to the fact that these two erstwhile training partners know each others' games inside-out.

It looked as if Montanes' experience and greater clay-court nous would finally see him through when he held a 5-2 lead in the fifth set, but the drama was just about to unfold. The Italian held, broke and held again, and with no tie-break to separate them, the fans were in for a clay-court marathon.

Dramatic denouement

To the chagrin of the crowd Fognini, serving at 6-7, 15-30, took a lengthy medical time-out. He came back to hold, then warded off two match points at 7-8, 15-40. By this time he was serving like Andy Murray post ankle-sprain the day before. Unable to move his legs and wanting to keep the points short, Fognini attempted to hit service winners with his arms alone. Another three match points followed at 8-9 but somehow he held.

A physio gave Fognini two-minute treatment sessions at each change-over and either the mini-massages worked miracles or the player the other side of the net was more mentally affected by his opponent's physical woes.

The Italian broke as Montanes lost his focus, then held his nerve to serve out to win 11-9. His shuffle to the net was slowed by the state of his legs and his entreaties to the crowd, with Montanes crossing round the net to proffer the most perfunctory of hand-shakes.

Fognini goes on to meet Novak Djokovic, a daunting prospect indeed, but one the Italian will be delighted to be facing as he prepares for his first-ever Grand Slam quarter-final appearance

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