Andy Murray’s latest revival on clay was halted by defeat in an eventful Italian Open first-round match in opposition to residence favorite Fabio Fognini.
The 35-year-old Briton, who received a Challenger title in France final week, misplaced 6-4 4-6 6-4 in Rome.
Fognini, 35, confirmed his stylish ball-striking to win the primary set, earlier than Murray ultimately clinched a second set that had seven breaks of serve.
However the Italian rediscovered his stage, serving clinically, to win the decider.
Murray was taking part in on the Rome clay for the primary time since 2017, when he was the defending champion and ranked because the world primary.
Since getting back from hip surgical procedure in 2019, which he thought would finish his profession, Murray has protected his physique with restricted appearances on the clay.
This 12 months, he’s focusing on a return to the French Open and making solely his second look on the clay-court Grand Slam occasion since 2017.
After beginning this season’s European swing with one-sided defeats in Monte Carlo and Madrid, the 2016 Roland Garros finalist determined to realize extra match follow by taking part in within the Aix-en-Provence occasion on the second tier of the ATP Tour.
The transfer paid dividends as he beat a strong field to win the trophy and earn helpful taking part in time.
Murray’s defeat by Fognini means he’s unable to string collectively extra matches in what’s scheduled to be the Scot’s last top-level match earlier than taking part in in Paris.
Nonetheless, he just lately signed as much as play one other Challenger occasion in Bordeaux subsequent week.
Again as much as 42 within the rankings, Murray’s serve got here below extreme stress as he fell behind early on.
Fognini, a former top-10 participant now ranked a hundred and thirtieth, demonstrated his class with assured returning off each flanks and a number of other beautiful winners.
The unpredictable Italian additionally confirmed a grittier facet to carry off three break factors for a 4-2 lead and, after serving out the opening set, Fognini saved six extra break factors firstly of the second.
However his focus all of a sudden dropped as back-to-back double faults handed over the break for Murray, who turned a 2-0 lead right into a 5-1 benefit.
Fognini put the set again on serve, helped by Murray’s first double fault of the match at 5-3, just for Murray to interrupt serve once more and ship the match right into a decider.
Probably the greatest ball-strikers and movers on clay, Fognini rediscovered his depth – as Murray light – to win an entertaining match lasting virtually three hours.
What else occurred in Rome?
Former British primary Kyle Edmund misplaced 6-1 6-3 within the first spherical to France’s Alexandre Muller.
Edmund, 28, performed below a protected rating as he continues his comeback from three knee operations.
Nonetheless, he was not capable of beat A hundredth-ranked Muller and arrange a second-round assembly with British primary Cameron Norrie.
Edmund, a former world quantity 14, has not received a match on the primary ATP Tour this 12 months, succumbing to his seventh straight defeat with the loss in opposition to Muller.
Within the ladies’s draw, two-time champion Elina Svitolina was overwhelmed by fellow Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko in solely her third top-level match since getting back from giving beginning to her first baby in October.
The pair have been two of essentially the most vocal gamers when talking out about Russia’s invasion of their nation.
Each wore Ukrainian symbols on their equipment and shared an emotional embrace after Tsurenko sealed a 6-4 6-3 win.
Elsewhere, Spanish metropolis Seville has been introduced because the host venue for the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup finals.