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By Alberto Amalfi | Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Fabio Fognini

Fabio Fognini heads our list of top US Open 2017 disappointments.

Photo credit: Swiss Open Gstaad

From the top of its skyscrapers to the depth of its subways, New York City reminds us of the highs and lows life presents.

US Open champions Rafael Nadal, Sloane Stephens and 25-time Grand Slam champion Martina Hingis, who captured both mixed doubles and women’s doubles crowns 20 years after she defeated Venus Williams to win the US Open singles championship, all hit the heights celebrating US Open success stories.

King: McEnroe Has Pursued Serena For 15 Years

We’ve seen champions star in glory stories, but what about those players who endured major misery in New York?

We detail the downers from Flushing Meadows with our top US Open disappointments.

See if you agree with our selections here.

We love his hustle, dedication and grit to play much of this season while battling injury and illness, but Andy Murray disappointed us with his timing.

The 2012 US Open champ’s decision to withdraw from the Open the day after the draw was conducted prevented the possibility of a Rafa Nadal vs. Roger Federer final and threw an already depleted draw into further disarray.

It also created a competitive imbalance in the bottom half of the draw.

Given Murray was plagued by a chronic hip injury that has sidelined him since his Wimbledon quarterfinal loss to Sam Querrey in July and was limping visibly during US Open practice week all signs pointed to him pulling out.

So why wait until after the draw to do it?

It was an odd decision and the timing of the two-time Olympic gold medal champion’s withdrawal did not help the tournament, which was already missing the seeded star power of Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic.

US Open men’s seedings were a major fail in our view.

Knowing Murray was injured and had not played in more than a month—and that third-seeded Federer trailed the second-ranked Scot by just five points in the ATP rankings when the seeds were made, the US Open should have seeded Federer second.

Consider Federer is a five-time US Open champion the 19-time Grand Slam king dominated much of the hard-court season winning the Australian Open and Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back, it was a no-brainer to elevate him to the No. 2 seed, which would have created a more competitive men’s draw.

Obviously, the USTA has rules in place for seedings.

However, can someone please explain to me how it makes sense for the US Open to award former champion Maria Sharapova a wild card—after Roland Garros and Wimbledon did not issue wild cards to the Russian following her 15-month doping ban—yet the tournament failed to move Federer, a five-time former champion who arrived in New York with two majors to his credit this year, up one spot in the seedings?

Cincinnati finalists Grigor Dimitrov and Nick Kyrgios are two of tennis’ most exciting players.

Both were big buzz kills in New York.

Battling a cranky shoulder and severe mood swings, Kyrgios looked disinterested falling in the first round.

Cincinnati champion Dimitrov failed to win a set in his second-round loss to 19-year-old Russian Andrey Rublev, who went on to reach his first major quarterfinal.

Though he owns the all-court acumen to make a major run on the Flushing Meadows fast track, Dimitrov has looked like a man spinning his wheels in a major New York pothole.

The Australian Open semifinalist has failed to survive the second round in five of his seven US Open appearances and looked resigned to another early exit in his loss to Rublev.

Add Montreal champion Alexander Zverev, who fell to Borna Coric in round two, as another young talent who underachieved.

While Kyrgios has a glorious gift for the game, his attitude remains a major stumbling block.

I grew up playing at the USTA National Tennis Center and have seen recreational hackers, talented juniors and hobbled seniors show more grit and determination than Kyrgios, one of the game’s most explosive and erratic talents whose massive serve is surpassed by his mind-numbing ability to shoot himself in the foot time and time again.

It’s frustrating to see it happen because Kyrgios’ potential as a game-changing player is immense.

Then again, it’s hard to truly care about a guy who doesn’t really care much himself.

Karolina Pliskova arrived in New York as world No. 1 with major aspirations.

The 2016 US Open finalist departed in a quarterfinal loss to CoCo Vandeweghe that ended her eight-week reign at the top of the rankings.

In a disheartening development, Pliskova conceded she really doesn’t care about being No. 1.

“I mean, I don't care,” Pliskova said afer her quarterfinal ouster. “ I don't think something is going to change if you are number two. Like, I don't see any difference between this. So for me, no changes.”

It’s disappointing to hear a player so gifted admit she’s not really all that driven to hold the top spot—one reason why she’s yet to master a major.

She was the feel-good story of 2016, but defending US Open champion Angelique Kerber continued a dispiriting downward spiral in majors.

Kerber looked tight, tentative and stressed suffering a first-round loss to talented powerhouse Naomi Osaka.

The former No. 1 managed just four games enduring her second Grand Slam opening-round exit of the season following her lethargic loss in Roland Garros.

Playing with the pressure of a woman carrying the Unisphere strapped to her back, Kerber continues to push her second serve and frequently flat-lined her forehand into net at crunch time. 

Hall of Famer Hingis famously summed up the pressures of reaching the top spot in the rankings saying "It's always easier being the hunter than the hunted."

Kerber proves that statement true. 

Wimbledon semifinalist Johanna Konta and two-time Roland Garros finalist Simona Halep, who lost to Maria Sharapova in a brutal draw, were also disappointing first-round casualties though in Halep’s case facing a five-time Grand Slam champion she’s never beaten before is a big ask.

Rafael Nadal and Sloane Stephens were both worthy and resilient champions.

Both rebounded from 2016 injuries, including foot surgery for Stephens, who dropped to No. 957 in the rankings just a few months ago.

We celebrate the champions completely.

But let’s be honest: as competitive matches the US Open singles finals were deeply deflating.

Madison Keys, plagued by a leg injury and nerves, managed just three games in one of the most lopsided US Open women’s finals in Open Era history.

Three-time US Open champion Nadal continued his career-long dominance of Kevin Anderson rolling through a straight-sets triumph that was devoid of drama.

Contrast these finals to the Australian Open finals when Federer fought back from 1-3 down in the fifth set defeating Nadal in a thriller and Serena edged Venus in the ladies final and the US Open finals were both anti-climactic in comparison.

We’ve reached the lowest of the lows.

Our biggest US Open disappointment is Fabio Fognini.

When he’s engaged, Fabio is one of the most entertaining players in the game.

When he’s enraged, Fognini can be rude, crude and nasty.

Fabio was kicked out of the Open for his meltdown in a first-round singles loss when he spewed crude sexual insults at Swedish chair umpire Louise Engzell.

The temperamental Italian was hit with three separate unsportsmanlike conduct fines, incurring a total fine of $24,000 and was bounced from the tournament after reaching the third round of doubles.

The husband of 2015 US Open champion Flavia Pennetta initially called his tirade “a very bad day.”

The Grand Slam board could hit Fognini with further sanctions including a fine of up to $250,000 and/or suspension from future Grand Slams.

The 30-year-old Italian told Italy’s Sky Sports he is willing to accept his punishment—even if he’s banned from the 2018 Australian Open.

“I need to pay for what I did,” Fabio said. “I’ll take full responsibility for it… I’ll turn the page with this stain on my shoulder that will never go away.”

While it’s encouraging to hear Fognini express contrition and take full responsibility, my question echoes Rafael Nadal’s observation about Fabio’s case: What took you so long?

Let’s be honest, this isn’t the first time flaky Fabio has erupted in a foul-mouth tirade.

It’s a shame the temperamental Italian degenerates into disrespectful eruptions. He is a magical shotmaker betrayed by a maddening disposition.

What’s more, Fognini’s meltdown came just two years after his wife won the 2015 US Open title in her Grand Slam farewell. Both Flavia and her good friend she beat in the final, Roberta Vinci, gave gracious speeches.

Perhaps Fabio can spend some time doing home-study with wife Flavia, who was respected as one of the classiest players on tour, and learn lessons of personal conduct and respect he can bring back to the court.

One of the best ball strikers in the sport misses the sportsmanship mark way too often. 


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