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Anderson into last 16 as Fognini capitulates

Kevin Anderson hits a backhand.
by Kate Mason
Friday 27 June 2014

After a drizzly morning, the crowd built six rows deep around Court 17 for a brilliantly entertaining five-setter between Kevin Anderson and Fabio Fognini, No.20 and No.16 seeds respectively. It ended in a whimper as the Italian capitulated in the final set to lose 4-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Anderson and Fognini could not be less alike. So different are they to look at that the contrast is almost comic: the former is very fair and stands 6ft 8in, the latter looks, well, Italian and is 5ft 10in. South African Anderson is also largely silent on court (bar an occasional roar); Fognini is a compulsive talker who this week received Wimbledon’s largest ever fine – £16,000 – for outbursts and racket abuse in his first round match.

Chair Umpire Carlos Ramos maintained control over the impetuous Fognini with a kind of fatherly indulgence and cajoling in the No.16 seed’s own language. And in the first set it helped that Fognini had things largely his own way. Anderson took an extended medical time out just before Fognini was to serve out the set, but no matter, the Italian moved on with a love game.

Next set the physio loiters again for Anderson but Fognini protests "No no no! Uno!" and he flees. The South African’s net play is not serving him well: he keeps coming in without spending enough time setting up and being punished with errors or powerful passing shots. Yet Fognini ships the second with a double fault, stamps on his racket on the way to his chair, and it’s level at one-all.

When in the third Anderson persists on his net-dashes, the momentum is with SW19’s ragazzaccio. The South African emits his one-off disconcerting roar and we’re into a fourth. Nearby, spectators are united in hoping for "another set and a tantrum please", but by me they’re all backing Fognini.

But the game shifts. Anderson’s third service game is a sign of things to come: powerful and concise, and completed in seconds. Fognini’s busy pleasing the crowd untucking a line judge’s tie, and double-faults set point down for the second time in the match to give us a fifth.

Little Fognini is not pleased and bawls an invented Italian phrase along the lines of "If I were a bit taller I would kick your ass". But the court falls silent as he loses the next five games in a row. Rushing out to serve at 5-0 down ("Maybe I can play one more game and I'm in the shower" he tells us afterwards), the showman delights with a few novelty drops and a behind-the-back spare ball shot. But Anderson cool wins out against Fognini fire to take the final set 6-1.

Wimbledon’s drama man uses tennis kit to batter his way off court. A couple of brave autograph hunters chase him, fruitlessly. "Watch your backs!" commands his minder, little realising she has lost him.

Some suggested it was Fognini’s mouthiness that prompted this stellar game’s relegation to Court 17. As on all outside courts, it means less space for the crowd and no challenge system.

Fognini said: "The only thing I don’t like here is your rules, Wimbledon's rules. Whites. And maybe if you see today I had to crash the rackets in my knee because maybe the court is really soft. I can damage it a lot. That's it."

Anderson was the first man to advance into the last 16 with his best-ever performance at The Championships and now has the huge challenge of facing Andy Murray.

As ever Fognini’s opposite, he has only good things to say about this week. "It obviously means so much to all of us playing here at such a special tournament. You know, I'm in new territory right now. It's one of those things where I think there will be more pressure on Andy than there is on me, so I can just relax a little bit more."

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