Big, fat fine for Fabio Fognini

The Grand Slam Board has laid down a major fine on combustible Italian Fabio Fognini for his behavior at the US Open.

The decision was made Monday, but only released publicly Wednesday.

It was determined that Fognini was guilty of two major offenses: Aggravated Behaviour, and Conduct Contrary to the Integrity of the Game.

The 30-year-old was fined $96,000 US, in addition to the $24,000 he already was assessed on-site during the tournament. If he manages not to be convicted of any other Major Offence through to the end of 2019, that $96,000 will be reduced by 50 per cent.

Most crucially, though, Fognini will be suspended from two Grand Slam tournaments (one of the the US Open). Except … if he keeps it clean through the end of 2019, that suspension will be waived.

This being a “Grand Slam” thing, of course, there is no impact on his play during the regular ATP Tour events.

He is in the third round in singles in Shanghai, and will face Rafael Nadal Thursday night.

Fognini had five business days to appeal the decision. The press release indicates he won’t.

“He has expressed remorse for his admitted misconduct.  He has confidence that he will meet the conditions necessary to reduce his financial penalty and to lift his Grand Slam tournament suspensions in the future,” it stated.

In other words, he has to write a big check. And he has to watch his back for the next two years-plus. Otherwise, he’ll miss a couple of majors.

His initial reaction (since deleted) tells you he’s fully aware that it’s barely a slap on the wrist.

It’ll be pretty interesting to see whether or not he can curb his baser instincts.


Specific instances of “Aggravated Behaviour” include: 

*Playing another event after being entered in a Slam, if the circumstances are flagrant and particularly injurious, once. otherwise, twice.
*Lack of best efforts
*Failure to complete match (unless reasonably unable to do so).
*Audible obscenities
*Visible obscenities.
*Verbal abuse
*Physical abuse
*Unsportsmanlike conduct

Here are the relevant passages in the Grand Slam rulebook.

Fabio Fabio

Fabio Fognini suspended at US Open

NEW YORK – The man they call Fogna went a couple of steps too far during his first-round singles match.

And so, the International Tennis Federation announced Saturday that the 30-year-old Italian had been “provisionally suspended from further participation in the US Open pending a Final Determination whether a Major Offense has been committed during his first round singles match.” (capitalization theirs).

The suspension took effect immediately.

Fognini, the No. 22 seed, lost that first-round match to a countryman, qualifier Stefano Travaglia, 6-0 in the fourth set.

SImone Bolelli didn’t do anything wrong, but he could well be out of pocket anyway. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

But he had reached the third round of doubles with another Italian, frequent partner Simone Bolelli.

They were awaiting an opponent for a match likely scheduled for Sunday. The potential opponents – both unseeded, and beatable opponents – will now receive a walkover into the quarterfinals.

According to Associated Press, Fognini had already received fines totalling $24,000 in the wake of that first-round defeat. The fines were for violations of three elements of the Grand Slam code of conduct: 

III-Q – Unsportsmanlike conduct

IV-A – Aggravated behaviour

IV-B – Conduct contrary to the integrity of the game

One of those violations involved the insulting of chair umpire Louise Engzell. 

Fognini has history

Fognini is no stranger to pulling out his wallet at tournaments. At Wimbledon in 2014, he received a total of $27,500 in fines after a first-round match.

And he won that match.

The Italian and umpire Engzell have met before.

Back in 2011, Fognini created all sorts of drama when the fifth set of his fourth-round match against Albert Montañes of Spain went into overtime.

Engzell was in the chair for that one. And as Fognini dramatically suffered a leg injury, he was allowed to delay the match for a significant period without Engzell firmly making a determination that Fognini either needed to retire, sit down, call the trainer – or something.

Montañes, understandably, was not a happy camper.

Fognini ended up winning that match. But the leg injury was legit enough that he had to default from his quarterfinal clash with Novak Djokovic.

#OlympicDay – Rio tennis flashback

There were a lot of big names missing at the Rio Olympics – especially on the men’s side.

But it was a fabulous event just the same.

Here’s a sample of pics taken during the tournament.

Among those featured are Eugenie Bouchard, Canadians Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil, Venus Williams, Fabio Fognini, Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Daria Kasatkina, Andy Murray and many more.

There’s a special collection of epic Barbora Strycova moments in there, too. 



Last-minute doubles math in Monte Carlo

The fans – and the tournaments – love it when the top singles guys deign to play doubles on the ATP Tour.

But for the doubles specialists, especially those who aren’t ranked in the top 20, it becomes a last-minute scramble just to get in.

The cutoff for the Monte Carlo doubles draw was 57. That’s the combined ranking of the two players and on the ATP Tour, players can use their singles ranking to qualify. That was done to encourage more singles players to play doubles; the WTA Tour has started doing this on a limited basis this season.

It’s why Julien Benneteau of France was able to get in with Lucas Pouille and his singles ranking of No. 17. It’s why the Zverev brothers (No. 20 in singles for Alexander, No. 33 for Mischa) can get into any tournament they choose. Germany’s Philipp Petzschner chose well; his protected doubles ranking of No. 36 might make it tough – but he teamed up with Marin Cilic, whose singles ranking was No. 8. Philipp Kohlschreiber (No. 32 in singles) and Dominic Thiem (No. 9) also got in based on their singles rankings.

With his singles ranking of No. 2, Djokovic can get into pretty much any doubles draw he wants to play. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Notably, it’s why Novak Djokovic and Viktor Troicki (ranked No. 2 and No. 38, respectively, in singles) were able to get in without needing a wild card.

The 24-team draw has 16 advance entries, six on-site sign-ins, and two wild cards. Monaco’s Romain Arneodo got one of the wild cards with young French player Hugo Nys. So that left one.

Do the math, squeeze into the draw

All of this left a few well-decorated doubles champions – Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi among them – on the bubble and pulling out their calculators for the on-site sign-in.

-Mirnyi and regular partner Treat Huey’s combined rankings added up to 69; not good enough.

-Nestor and new partner Fabrice Martin’s combined rankings added up to 64; not good enough.

-Fabio Fognini wanted to play with frequent partner and countryman Simone Bolelli, who is returning from injury. But at a combined 76 (Fognini’s No. 28 singles ranking and Bolelli’s protected doubles ranking of No. 48), they weren’t close.

-Grigor Dimitrov and Serbia’s Nenad Zimonjic, a multiple Grand Slam champion in doubles, were going to miss the cut at a combined 69 (Dimitrov at No. 12 in singles, Zimonjic at No. 57 in doubles).

So …. the musical chairs began.

Almost everyone managed to squeeze in; only Martin and Bolelli were left out in the cold. Also notably left out were Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, the Colombian duo that currently sits at No. 8 in the doubles race to the ATP Tour Finals in London.

-Nestor and Mirnyi, who played regularly together for several years, squeezed in at a combined 56.

Nestor and Mirnyi, who won back-to-back French Open doubles titles in 2011 and 2012, did some match and re-teamed in Monte Carlo this week. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

-Mirnyi’s partner Huey got some help from Germany’s Tommy Haas, whose protected singles ranking of No. 25 did the job.

-Dimitrov and Zimonjic got the second wild card. It wouldn’t be a shock to find out that Djokovic gave the tournament organizers a little nudge in that direction, even if the two have fine credentials on their own.

Singles players prevail in doubles

The most fan-friendly outcome of all was when Fognini ended up teaming up with Stan Wawrinka. Their combined singles rankings easily put them near the top of the sign-in list.

As it happened, they met doubles specialists Nestor and Mirnyi in the first round on Sunday, and came out on the winning side.

It’s a shame, in a sense. All that math on Saturday, and Nestor and Mirnyi’s week is already over. Had they lost, Fognini and Wawrinka still had singles campaigns to look forward to. Often, in these cases, the singles players who advance late into the week in both draws have few qualms about pulling out of the doubles.

But on Sunday, the pair was pretty happy.

(Bet you didn’t know Fognini was a French speaker; he is! Speaks fine Spanish as well).

Buss: Despite notable absences, Davis Cup drama in store

The future of the Davis Cup has been a hot topic of late.

It has become somewhat of an obligation necessary to qualify for the Olympics –  also under the ITF’s aegis. And it has become a bucket-list event for the top players; no career resumé can be complete without a Davis Cup crown.

Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka led Switzerland to the 2014 Davis Cup title and have played only once since then. With the commitment of the game’s top stars sporadic, the event has lost much of its once-formidable cachet.

With the current schedule of mandatory ATP events  so demanding, committing to (potentially) four more weeks of pressure-packed play has been deemed too much by the tennis elite.

Compounding the Davis Cup’s scheduling woes are that at the moment (Ed: the scheduling tends to change every few years, with the ATP having to sign off on the selected weeks) the weeks set aside for World Group ties come the weeks after the Australian Open, Miami Open, US Open, and the year-end ATP Tour Finals.

I’ve been positing for years now that the ITF and ATP need to join forces to find a way make Davis Cup a marquee event that is held all at once, at a major facility, with ATP ranking points at stake (as there were a few years ago) and significant prize money at stake. Hold it in the fall after all the majors have been played; use the weeks freed up on the ATP calendar to slot some of the events displaced from the indoor season.

In theory, it’s a no-brainer. Practically, the details are mighty devilish.

All Davis Cup challenges aside, eight colorful, storied teams remain alive in this year’s World Group. They will square off beginning Friday in four quarterfinals

Let’s take a look.

The popcorn quarter that wasn’t: Spain visits Serbia

Nobody can accuse Spain’s Rafael Nadal of abandoning his home country. Spain has won the Davis Cup four times during his illustrious career.  But Nadal has known since January there would be a need for his services against a Novak Djokovic-led Serbia and he has chosen to sit out Spain’s quarterfinal tie against Serbia this weekend.

Nenad Zimonjic is now a playing captain; Djokovic’s form is uncertain for the weekend, but he’s there. (ITF/Srdjan Stevanovic)

Once again, his absence really hurts the concept of Davis Cup as a premier event. If there has been one thing missing from this golden era of men’s tennis, it has been a deciding Davis Cup rubber between two of tennis’ Big Four. And time is running out. These next couple of years may well be Davis Cup’s very last chance to see the best from this era face off.

No certain Brexit now: Great Britain visits France

With Andy Murray out with a testy elbow, it appeared Great Britain was heading for an early “Brexit” from this year’s Davis Cup. But despite the persistent loyalty of France’s top players to the competition they have never won as a group, the four nouveaux Mousquetaires –  Gaël Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon – are unavailable.

(The last time none of the four were part of a Davis Cup squad, most were still in their teens. That was in 2005 against Sweden, when the team was Sébastien Grosjean, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Arnaud Clément and Michaël Llodra). 

That leaves Jérémy Chardy, Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau to join rising young star Lucas Pouille on indoor clay in Rouen, France.

By far the youngest member of the French squad, Lucas Pouille is expected to lead them to victory (ITF/Corinne Dubreuil)

Pouille, at No. 17, is the only player currently ranked in the top 40 (the other three have reached that level during their careers). So this has the makings of a highly unpredictable tie with all sorts of room for high drama and unexpected heroes. Whichever nation emerges will need its best players healthy to have any hope of advancing to November’s finals.

Entrée and dessert: Italy visits Belgium

Fabio Fognini, who came back from two sets down to win Italy’s deciding rubber against Argentina in January’s first round, will not be able to answer the bell Friday. Fognini is nursing a few sore body parts from his surprise to the Miami Open semi-finals last week, But the Italians are deep; Andreas Seppi, Paolo Lorenzi and Simone Bolelli, who has just returned from injury, have been nominated. Surprise 2015 finalist Belgium is led by David Goffin. He’ll be a tough customer to beat indoors at home.  With only two players in the top-50 competing, and with Belgium’s No. 2 singles player a long step down from Goffin, this one could be unpredictable.

Thunder Down Under: USA visits Australia

Just as the National Hockey League has so-called “Original Six” teams, the Davis Cup have Team Australia and Team USA.

The Americans have won the Davis Cup 32 times, the Aussies 28 times. That puts them No. 1 and No. 2 on the all-time list. But none of those titles have come recently; the USA’s last win came in 2007, Australia’s in 2003.

The two countries played last year with the U.S. coming out on top. A lot has changed since then. Lleyton Hewitt is a full-time captain now, while Nick Kyrgios has become one of the most dangerous players on the ATP tour.

Kyrgios could use his temperamental sidekick Bernard Tomic. But this will not be Bernie’s weekend. After Tomic declined to make himself available for the first-round tie in January, Hewitt decided to keep the winning squad intact for the quarterfinals.

John Isner’s dress shoes may still be in his closet at home, but he’s standing tall in Brisbane. (ITF/SMP Images)

Team USA is as loaded on the singles side as it has been in years with Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, John Isner and Sam Querrey joining captain Jim Courier in Brisbane. Notably, though, longtime Davis Cup stalwarts Bob and Mike Bryan  – once a near-guaranteed point in the crucial Saturday doubles rubber – have retired from Davis Cup play.

The match of the weekend should be Sock vs. Kyrgios, the fourth match of the tie and first up on Sunday (Saturday night in North America). They are two of the hottest players in 2017 not named Roger Federer. And they are are good friends. It will be interesting to see how their loose, engaging styles of play translate to the pressure cooker of a tight Davis Cup tie.

Shoeless Nadal will go to video to solve mystery

KEY BISCAYNE – Rafael Nadal doesn’t know how it happened.

But after coming right out of his shoe as he ran in vain for a brilliant Fabio Fognini drop shot during their Miami Open semi-final Friday, he said during the Spanish part of his post-match media conference that he’s going to have to go video replay to determined what happened.

Always glad to help:

The Mallorcan seemed perplexed, and maybe a little embarrassed about the incident, which Fognini greatly enjoyed and everyone else got a big kick out of. But in discussing it afterwards, Nadal didn’t really see the humour; it cost him a point, and therefore is a problem that must be handled.

Fognini has a pretty good laugh after levitating Nadal right out of his right show during their semi-final match Friday in Miami. ( screenshot)

Nadal rebutted the myth that his shoes were a size or two smaller than his feet (which is why his feet always looked stuff into them) years ago, saying that he wore a size 10 1/2 shoe, but his Nikes were custom-made and officially size 10. But that was the extent of it.

After this little incident (which he said also happened on the practice court during this American hard-court swing), he might want to re-evaluate.