Comeback king Fognini completes unique grand slam

Fabio Fognini d. Reilly Opelka 3-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6; Milos Raonic d. Lorenzo Giustino 6-2, 6-1, 6-3; Dominic Thiem d. Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 7-5 6-2; Stan Wawrinka d. Damir Dzumhur 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-4.

Italian veteran Fabio Fognini found a way to create his own grand slam in the first round of the Australian Open.

The 12th seed came from two sets to love down to beat big-serving American Reilly Opelka in a rain-interrupted match that started on the opening day. In doing so, Fognini has now come from two sets down to win at each of the four grand slams.

He’s achieved the commendable feat once at the French Open, twice at Wimbledon, three times at the US Open – most famously against Rafael Nadal in 2015 – and now at Melbourne Park.

“I make the grand slam,” Fognini joked after the match. “Not in the way of 'Rafa' or Roger [Federer] … a different kind of one, but it’s OK."

His match against Opelka had just about everything. Forty-six aces (35 from Opelka), 101 winners and two verbal tirades – one from each player.

Fognini was handed a code violation and a point penalty for racquet abuse, while Opelka was warned for time-wasting in between serves and then took issue with the chair umpire not punishing Fognini correctly.

“How many f—ing times are you going to let him get away with it?” Opelka vented.

“You’re f—ing pathetic. He’s done it four times.”

Fognini was sporting nasty bruises across his right hand after the match and was unable to fully close his index finger, after admitting to punching his own racquet on Monday.

But the rain came at the right time for the Italian, who won in a fifth-set tie-break in a match that lasted more than three-and-a-half hours.

“That’s the sport, I was not happy yesterday because I was not feeling the ball at all,” said Fognini, whose next opponent is Australian Jordan Thompson.

“I really don’t like this kind of ball because when they’re new they’re really fast but after 10 minutes they go orange.”

Opelka downplayed his run-in with the umpire after the match, telling reporters it was “normal.”

He did, however, admit it may have had an adverse impact on his opponent.

"Especially against a guy like him. You want to keep him out of the match as much as possible," he said.

World No.256 Ernest Gulbis couldn't be kept out of his match against world No.22 Felix Auger-Aliassime.

The Latvian former world No.10 was too strong for his Canadian opponent, prevailing in four sets in a tight arm wrestle 7-5, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4.

Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, the 31st seed, came through a tough five-set battle with Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak.

Hurkacz, who will face Australian John Millman in the second round, came from two sets down to win in just over three hours.

There were no such issues for fellow seeds and big servers Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic, who barely needed to get out of second gear out on court 19, both winning in straight sets. Cilic was first up against Frenchman Corentin Moutet, while Italian lucky loser Lorenzo Giustino didn’t last 90 minutes against Raonic.

It was a similar story for the highly-fancied fifth seed Dominic Thiem, who defeated Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in straight sets despite a tricky second set which lasted 58 minutes.

No.15 seed Stan Wawrinka dropped the second set in a tie-break to Bosnian Damir Dzumhur but eventually prevailed in four, while the all-Spanish battle on court 13 between 38-year old veteran Feliciano Lopez and ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut didn't live up to the hype, with Bautista Agut far too strong in a straight-sets win.

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