Tennis

Unseeded Fognini takes out Nishikori in Miami Open quarterfinals

Fabio Fognini defeats Kei Nishikori in two sets at the Miami Open on Key Biscayne, Fla., Thursday, March 29, 2017.
Fabio Fognini defeats Kei Nishikori in two sets at the Miami Open on Key Biscayne, Fla., Thursday, March 29, 2017. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Possessing the No. 2 seed in the Miami Open is a pretty nice spot to occupy. However, being No. 2 in a singles tennis match is definitely not a nice spot.

However, that’s what Kei Nishikori of Japan had to accept on Wednesday afternoon as a string of mishits led to him being upset by Fabio Fognini of Italy 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the Miami Open on Key Biscayne.

A passing shot by Fognini with Nishikori helplessly at the net finished the match and sent Fognini into a series of fist pumps as Nishikori walked off the purple courts with his head down.

Next up for Fognini, unseeded in the tournament and ranked 40th in the world, will be a semifinal match against the winner of a late match between Rafael Nadal and Jack Sock.

Guess who will be watching that match on TV?

“I’m relaxing [tonight] and going to dinner,” Fognini said, “but I will watch the match. It doesn’t matter who I am playing.”

For the moment, Fognini pointed out: “I’m just happy. Of course, this is a big, big tournament for me.”

Then he added: “I am feeling really good on the court and other times, so this is the best thing that we can have this week. It’s like a dream, maybe.

“I will try to do my best, and then if it’s dreaming come true I’m here.”

Fognini, 29, has a respectable résumé but certainly does not rank as one of tennis’ big names. Nevertheless, he has earnings of just more than $8 million and on Wednesday became the first unseeded player to make the Miami Open semifinals since qualifier Guillermo Canas accomplished the feat and went on to make the final in 2007.

All four of Fognini’s ATP victories have come on red clay. So how does he feel about the purple hard courts of Key Biscayne?

“I really love to play on this surface,” he said.

While Fognini was loving the afternoon, Nishikori was battling with some minor injuries and it showed in his uneven play.

“I think I couldn’t hit 100 percent,” Nishikori revealed but refused to say it was a cause for his loss. “I had a couple of spots really hurting, but I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

Not hurting was Fognini. He was looking ahead.

Once asked who was the player he most admired, Fognini responded: “Roger Federer, he’s special.”

That said, Fognini is possibly one victory from meeting Federer, the player he respects so much, in the Miami Open championship match.

“I would like that for sure,” he said without hesitation.

However, that statement should come with one possible caveat, considering that he is talking about a showdown with Federer.

Be careful what you wish for, Fabio.

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