Flamboyant Fognini returns to ASB Classic

Published: Wed 4 Dec 2019 11:09 AM
Flamboyant Fognini returns to ASB Classic as full field confirmed
Wednesday 4 December
The Men’s Week field for the ASB Classic just got even bigger with the confirmation that world number 12 Fabio Fognini will start his season again in Auckland, becoming the fifth top 20 player in the men’s line up for 2020.
Like fine wine, the Italian number one gets better with age, breaking inside the top ten for the first time in his career this season. The 32-year old reached a career high ranking of nine in June after a dream week at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat then World Number two Rafael Nadal and three Alexander Zverev to clinch the title – his first at the Masters 1000 level.
Tournament Director Karl Budge says the flamboyant Italian is just the sort of player desired for the ASB Classic.
“Fabio is one of the true entertainers on the ATP Tour. He is quite possibly the most naturally talented guy on tour. When he is on, there are few players that can stick with his level, as he showed beating Rafa in Monte Carlo – a tournament Rafa has owned throughout his career. His array of shot making is unbelievable and is always entertainment plus. That is really important for us to have that variety and contrast of styles”.
Known as much for his flair as his colourful exchanges on court, Fognini reached a further six quarterfinals in 2019 (ASB Classic, Hamburg European Open, Los Cabos, Montreal Masters, China Open, Shanghai Masters) and the round of 16 at Roland Garros.
The future looks bright for the ASB Classic as the other three top seeds are a group all still in their early twenties. Top seed Daniil Medvedev is just 23 years old and has already solidified himself as one of the best players in the game. Four of his seven ATP career titles came in 2019 (Sofia Open, Western & Southern Open, St Petersburg and the Shanghai Masters), another five finals appearances including the US Open and three more semi-final finishes highlighting his dominance at the top this year. Dominance that drew huge praise from Nadal who claimed Medvedev had enjoyed the best summer he had seen in his time in the game.
Third seed Denis Shapovalov is even younger, celebrating his 20th birthday in April days after reaching his career high ranking of no 15. The 20-year old took home his first ATP title in October after winning the Stockholm Open, and has also reached a further final, three semi-finals and three quarter-finals in 2019. Long touted to be a future Grand Slam Champion, the you Canadian loves the big occasion and had huge finish to his season, reaching the final in Paris beating Nadal, Monfils, Zverev and Fognini before facing Novak Djokovic in the decider and lead Canada to the final of new Davis Cup Finals a week later in Madrid.
Rounding out our top four for 2020 is 23-year-old Russian Karen Khachanov who broke inside the top ten in June after reaching the quarterfinals of Roland Garros. His major scalps this season include Juan Martin del Potro, John Isner and Alexander Zverev.
“I couldn’t be happier at securing the services of these three youngsters. Not only are they part of a really exciting group that will be leading the Men’s game for the next decade, they have already shown they will be fighting for Grand Slam’s in 2020. Medvedev has probably had the most impressive season on tour whilst Denis’ finish to the year was mighty impressive. I genuinely believe any of these three could go on to capture the Australian Open right after us” stated Budge.
Shapovalov and Khachanov are rewarding investments made early in their careers having both played at the ASB Classic twice previously on their rise up the rankings. This looks set to be repeated with a host of the Next Gen Finals (the best 21 and under players in the world) field set to appear in Auckland.
Three of the eight players from the Milan Next Gen Finals confirmed for Auckland including America’s great male hope Frances Tiafoe. The 21-year old made his presence felt early this year at the Australian Open, where he upset Kevin Anderson (No 5) and Grigor Dimitrov (No 20) before being edged out by second seed Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinal. Big ‘Foe’ went on to make another four ATP quarterfinals this season. The Maryland native has long been tipped for greatness and it looks like he’s living up to those high expectations.
He’s joined in Auckland by fellow Next Gen stars Norwegian Casper Ruud and Frenchman Ugo Humbert. Tiafoe is the highest ranked out of the young crop at 47, he’s also the only one to have won an ATP title but if history is to teach us anything, any one of these players could trouble the seeds and go the distance.
The ASB Classic welcomes back three former finalists, Adrian Mannarino (2015), Joao Sousa (2017) and 2019’s finalist Cam Norrie. There’s only one man in the field that has been able to go one better than this bunch, two-time champion and world number 19 John Isner. The 6’10 American has won at least one tournament every year for the last 10 years on tour, including Auckland twice (2010, 2014).
This year his title came at Newport, another favourite tournament of his. The 34-year old is our 5th seed and just too classy to be taken lightly and clearly knows how to win in Auckland.
Ex-pat Kiwi Cam Norrie had a stunning run at the ASB Classic this year by beating Portuguese number one Joao Sousa and American Taylor Fritz on route to his first final of an ATP event. The Brit then went on to reach two further semi-finals this year (Atlanta, Acapulco) before reaching his top ranking of 41 in the world. Currently ranked 53, the Auckland bred player is a fan favourite and will look to his family and friends in the crowd to get him through to the back end of the tournament again.
With five top twenty players and the main draw cut off just outside 60 in the world, the calibre of tennis that week will be nothing short of breath taking, and it’s not just tournament organiser who are excited to be hosting a super star lineup this summer.
“The ASB Classic is one of Auckland’s premier summer events and that status is underlined by the calibre of players who will compete in the men’s and women’s tournaments in 2020. This event has immense international appeal and the 2019 global broadcast reached a viewership of 328 million with some of these viewers in our key offshore markets, which further promoted our region as a global destination. Not only that, the event is renowned for the unique experiences it offers players and their families, a testament to the way we welcome our visitors and our manaakitanga” said Steve Armitage, General Manager – Destination for Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development.
The ASB Classic will span for two weeks; the women's tournament kicking off on January 6 to January 12 followed by the Men’s tournament from January 13 to 18. Tickets are on sale now through Ticketek and you can purchase tickets either online, over the phone on (0800 842 538) or in person at one of the agencies listed on the event website.
2020 ASB Classic Men’s Full Field
1. Daniil Medvedev (5)
2. Fabio Fognini (12)
3. Denis Shapovalov (15)
4. Karen Khachanov (17)
5. John Isner (19)
6. Benoit Paire (24)
7. Hubert Hurkacz (37)
8. Adrian Mannarino (43)
9. Radu Albot (46)
10. Frances Tiafoe (47)
11. John Millman (48)
12. Lorenzo Sonego (52)
13. Cameron Norrie (53)
14. Casper Ruud (54)
15. Ugo Humbert (57)
16. Joao Sousa (60)
17. Feliciano Lopez (62)

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