The year 2019 has been kind to Fabio Fognini as the 32-year-old international tennis star finally clinched his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo boosting himself up the ATP rankings to his current position of 12.
To top a great year of tennis for the Italian, he will be joining seven other leading other men’s players to battle it out for the inaugural edition of the $3 million Diriyah Tennis Cup presented by Saudi Aramco. The tournament takes place from 12 to 14 December in Diriyah, the UNESCO World Heritage site on the outskirts of the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
It will be the first international tennis tournament ever to be staged in the Kingdom and Fognini believes it will help tap into the growing interest in the game and drive up its popularity further.
“The Middle East is a region that has a lot of hunger for tennis and I believe we should be able to play in this region more often. It would help tennis develop and it would give players more opportunities
“It is an honour to play in a new event. I am glad the organizers have chosen me to play in this new venue, which is apparently a very unique place.
“I think it is a great opportunity for the people of Saudi Arabia to be able to attend such world-class events live, and I believe it is good for the country as well,” Fognini added.
The tournament comes at an ideal time for Fognini in mid-December just ahead of the new 2020 season and the first of the Grand Slams, Australian Open.
“It is quite important as it gives you similar feeling and playing conditions as the Australian Open, so for us coming from Europe is a very good preparation,” Fognini said of his participation in Diriyah Tennis Cup. “I had a good year in 2019, so the goal is always to do a bit better than the previous year.”
Staged at the purpose built 15,000-seater outdoor hard-court Diriyah Arena, watching Diriyah Tennis Cup from the stands promises to be an unmissable experience for tennis fans in the kingdom and beyond and the Italian thinks fans shouldn’t wait to secure their tickets.
“It’s all different live; you hear the sounds of the game, which you miss on TV, and also the speed of the ball and the movement is completely different. [I think fans] will enjoy it!” said the 32-year-old.
Fognini will join a spectacular line-up of men’s tennis players next month for Diriyah Tennis Cup. Besides him will be three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka and the highly rated world No. 11 David Goffin of Belgium.
Big-serving American John Isner, with over 10,000 aces on tour, will also be present along with five-time ATP champion Lucas Pouille of France, who was an Australian Open semi-finalist this year.
Current world No. 5 Daniil Medvedev wraps up the six confirmed names so far, with the final two names set to be announced in the coming weeks.
“It’s a very competitive line-up, players with different styles. It will be interesting to see who will play better,” the world’s No. 12 said of his competition in Diriyah. “I think with Goffin and Isner I get along very well.”
The animated Italian, a popular character on the tour, is known for both his on-court antics and cheeky comments and has no intention in changing ahead of his debut in Saudi Arabia. “I am who I am, in the good and bad, I believe I show my emotions when I play, and this could me my weakness or my strength…but I think people like to watch me play also for that!”
Fognini will be looking to build on his earlier success this year in Monte Carlo where he became the first Italian to win an ATP Masters 1000 title, beating then-world No. 3 Alexander Zverev and defending champion Rafael Nadal in the process. “Today I deserved to lose because I played against a player that was better than me,” Nadal said following his loss to Fognini at the semifinal stage.
Diriyah Tennis Cup is part of Diriyah Season, a month-long celebration of world-class sport and entertainment that kicks off with double-header of the futuristic Formula E race; followed by boxing world heavyweight title fight, dubbed Clash On The Dunes; then the Diriyah Tennis Cup; and elite Diriyah Equestrian Festival.
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