Murray crashes out of Italian Open, Sharapova injured

Victorious Fabio Fognini

 ROME-- Italian stallion Fabio Fognini produced a sterling perforance to beat world number one Andy Murrary in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2, in the second round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Tuesday evening. Fognini required just 93 minutes on the Campo Centrale of the Foro Italico in Rome to book his place in the third round of the competition, where he will face talented German youngster Alexander Zverev.

 The defeat was the latest in a string of dissapointing 2017 results for the 30-year-old world number one, who came into the tournament as the defending champion after beating Novak Djokovic in last year's final.

Murray was under pressure from the very start of the match and never recovered from losing his initial sevice game, as Fognini raced to a commadning 3-0 lead in the first set, inspired by the partisan Italian crowd urging him on.

The Italian undoubtedly produced some of the greatest tennis of his career, using a perfect combination of powerful ground strokes and wonderfully disguised drop shots which resulted in Fognini waltzing to the first set 6-2. 

 Murray has struggled to perform at the last three clay court events he’s played this year and any chances of a revival in the second set were seemingly scuppered as Fognini continued to dominate the rallies, taking advantage of Murray's innocuous mid-court ground strokes.

At 5-1 in the second set, the Italian crowd sensed it was over, with one particularly bold member of the crowd telling Murray to "go to the showers."

However, the Scot managed to produce a couple of critical holds of serve before breaking Fognini to bring the score back to 5-4 and force the Italian to serve out for the match. 

The Sanremo native had shown signs of nerves trying to close out the match, as unforced errors which were previously absent began to creep into his game. 

Depsite going 0-15 down in the crucial final game, Fognini produced two sensational first serves before clinching match-point to the delight of the Italian crowd, who had come in their thousands to support the home favourite.

There was also bad news for former ladies number one, Maria Sharapova, who was forced to retire from her second round match against Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni due to a thigh injury, as the contest entered the deciding set. The Russian national has recently returned to competitive tennis following her 15 month ban for taking an illegal substance.  The result is all the more dissapointing for Sharapova as it has all but ended her chances of qualifying for the main draw at Wimbledon on merit. Instead, the Russian will most likely be relying on a wildcard invitation or going through the qualification rounds if she is to return to SW19 in July.