Monday, August 12, 2013

The Outer Courts Falls Out of Love with Fabio

If there is one thing I have learned in my short time covering tennis, it is this. The player you like today may be the player you hate tomorrow.  At Indian Wells, I became a huge fan of Fabio Fognini.  I described him this way in our preview last night here on "The Outer Courts":

Part of what makes Fabio fascinating is also what makes him on the surface, unlikeable. He is a living embodiment of the kind of person one doesn't think exists in, handsome, stylish and named Fabio, almost like a cultural stereotype of the kind of person that no one would like and was destined to be a complete jerk. And that he may be, but on the court, he grinds out points and is able to scramble for points as well as anyone on tour. He is having his best year ever and now finds himself seeded in a Masters 1000 event. If you aren't familiar with him, don't let your first impression bias you too greatly. He comes off initially as an imminently hateable character...but give him a chance and he may win you over.

Well after today, maybe I need to change that view. For now, Fognini is back on the "difficult to like" list. As Amy Fetherolf reports, in his disappointing loss to Radek Stepanek, Fognini ended the match by pitching a fit, acting out over his disapproval of calls made by the chair umpire. After being tagged for a couple of foot faults, Fognini became visibly frustrated, at one point sneering in the direction of the umpire. He was soon thereafter assessed a penalty for "ball abuse" (a penalty that I admit makes little sense to me...are we worried about the feelings of the ball or potentially scarring it for its future), and Fognini began slowly losing his mind. His play worsened and his distraction led to play that resemebled one step above tanking. On the final point of the match, Fognini decided to make a statement and intentionally foot faulted on his serve, thereby ensuring the match for Stepanek. The crowd booed with disapproval and Fognini left the court as the least favorite Cincinnati interloper since Jerry Springer's prostitute.

In tennis, like love, approval is fleeting. Fabio was the apple of The Outer Courts' eye at Indian he leaves Ohio an embarrassment. As the philosopher Ice Cube once said, "You used to be the Don Juan, not your name is just 'Toine."  Fabio, we hardly knew you.