Rafael Nadal suffers shock defeat to Fabio Fognini

Loss raises questions about Spaniard's health

By Matias Grez, CNN
2019 Getty Images

Rafael Nadal of Spain serves against Fabio Fognini of Italy in their semifinal match during day seven of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters at Monte-Carlo Country Club on April 20 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal suffered a shock defeat on clay in the Monte-Carlo Masters semifinals, going down 6-4 6-2 to Italian Fabio Fognini.

The defeat, in particular the second set which saw Nadal save five match points to avoid a bagel, will raise questions about the Spaniard's health heading into next month's French Open.

A knee problem meant the 32-year-old had to pull out of a semifinal against Roger Federer at last month's Indian Wells and forced him to withdraw from the Miami Masters a week later.

Seeking a 12th title in Monte-Carlo, cracks were perhaps beginning to show in the previous round, as Nadal had to battle back from 4-1 down in the first set against Guido Pella, before eventually taking it on a tie break.

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This is the fourth time in 15 matches that Fognini has got the better of Nadal -- who was on an 18-match winning streak in the principality -- and is one of just seven players to have beaten the 17-time grand slam champion more than once on clay.

The 31-year-old Fognini, who deserves plenty of credit for dismantling his opponent, will now play in his first Masters 1000 final for a shot at the biggest title of his career.

His defeat of the defending champion makes him only the fourth player to have beaten Nadal in Monte-Carlo over the course of the Spaniard's career.

Fognini will face unseeded Serb Dusan Lajovic -- another first-time Masters finalist -- in Sunday's final.

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