Bernard Tomic fought off two break points in the opening game before breaking Fabio Fognini in the next game to take a 2-0 lead in the final of the ATP 250 event in Chengdu. That was the same as he had done in both sets of his semi-final win against Jaoa Sousa. Would he be able to do the same against the world no. 13 Fognini?
Tomic again had to fight off break points in the next service game, four in fact, but he held for a 3-0 lead. Tomic was having an outstanding tournament, playing his first ATP final since he lost in Acapulco in 2016 where he lost to Dominic Thiem. Back then he was ranked at no. 21. For this tournament he went in ranked at no. 123.
Fognini got on the board in the fourth game to see Tomic step up to serve at 3-1. This time it was a more comfortable hold for Tomic as he pushed out to a 4-1 lead.
The Italian double-faulted at 40-30 to give Tomic another sniff at a break, the next point was won by Tomic to earn a break point which he converted for a 5-1 advantage.
Tomic raced through the next game to close out the first set 6-1. With Fognini to serve first in the second set, it was key that he showed some resistance or Tomic would be lifting to winners trophy, his first since Bogota in July 2015 when he defeated France’s, Adrian Mannarino.
Fognini was able to win the opening game of the second set. Tomic riding on the confidence of a good first set served to love to level the set at 1-1. In the next game, Tomic jumped to a 0-30 advantage. Fognini got the score back to 30-30 but then Tomic had a look at another break point. He was 2 for 2 in the first set. This time Fognini denied Tomic for deuce.
Fognini is better known as a clay court player. He had won all of his first seven titles on clay. He broke that mold when he won the Los Cobos title on hard courts in early August 2018.
The third game of the set was a struggle as Fognini fought off a break point and was taken to deuce several times before claiming the game for a 2-1 lead.
Tomic was taken to a breakpoint when serving at 1-2 down, this time Fognini was able to get his first break and he was ahead 3-1.
The Australian was able to strike back immediately as he converted another break point at 30-40 to move to the next service game at 2-3.
Tomic let a 40-15 advantage slip, going to deuce before he won the next two point, game point with an ace, his eighth of the match.
Fognini was again under pressure in the next service game with Tomic jumping out to 15-30. Fognini got to 40-30 with his third ace in the final. The no. 1 seed closed out the game to lead 4-3 on serve.
As the pressure mounted towards the business end of the set, Fognini was able to win the first point of game no.8. Tomic won the next two points with another ace, no. 9. Fognini got the score to deuce, then earned another breakpoint. This was a huge point as if converted Fognini would be serving for the set. He had converted one of seven breakpoints at this stage. The Italian converted again, to lead 5-3.
Tomic was not giving up on the second set as he earned two break points at 15-40. Fognini saved the first, then the second with an ace as he moved two points from the second set. He was able to win the next two points to level the match at 1-1.
The world no. 123 was stepping up to open the serving in the deciding set. Fognini took the first, third and fourth points for a 15-40 advantage. Fognini took control of the third set as he broke for the early lead.
Tomic again had break points in the first Fognini service game of the third set, but again he let two chances slip. He was given a third opportunity as he grabbed the advantage, again he was denied, but again the door was opened. On the fourth opportunity, Tomic was able to win the game to level the score at 1-1.
Tomic served his 10th ace to bring up two game points at 40-15. He then moved to 2-1 as he closed out the game.
Another break point came for Tomic as he got to 30-40, it was saved, but a second breakpoint was offered. Tomic again could not convert despite having a look at a second serve. Fognini was struggling to hold and after yet another breakpoint he could not hold back Tomic and the Australian took the game for a 3-1 lead.
Tomic could see the finish line in sight, but fell behind 15-40 to offer two break points. Fognini converted on the second to get back to 2-3 with his serve to come. Both players would hold for Tomic to be ahead at 4-3. Fognini then served to love to level the set at 4-4.
The pressure was on Tomic. If he slipped here Fognini would be serving for the title. He lost the first point of the ninth game, but then hit back to get to 30-15. Fognini got back to 30-30, then Tomic had game point. He closed out the game to now have Fognini serving to stay in the match.
Fognini won the next game convincingly for 5-5. Tomic lost the first point of the next game before winning the next three for 40-15. Fognini then got to 40-30 before Tomic won the game for a 6-5 lead. Would we see a tie-break or could Tomic break to claim the 2018 ATP 250 title in Chengdu?
Fognini jumped out to 30-0, Tomic came back to 30-30, the Fognini had game point which he converted to take the match into a deciding tiebreaker.
Tomic would open the serving, a title was up for grabs. Tomic got the early lead. Fognini kept points on serve for 1-1, but then Tomic had the first mini-break to lead 2-1, that was short lived as Fognini took the next point for 2-2. He hit the lead at 3-2, then got to within three points of the match at 4-2. Another point for Fognini and it was a long way back for Tomic, he was 5-2 down, but ended Fognini’s five straight points to see the score at 5-3. Fognini would then have three championship points as he served at 6-3. He kept Tomic alive with a double fault. Then another point for Tomic made it interesting. Ace no. 12 for Tomic and the scores were level. Fognini again had a championship point at 7-6 as he served.
Tomic was not giving in easily, 7-7. Now Tomic after having faced four match points was not serving for the championship. He won the next point and the title was his 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(7).
“I think all week I was lucky,” Tomic said.
“I was supposed to lose in the qualifying in the second round to (Egor) Gerasimov, I was down 3-0, 4-0 in the tiebreak third set. I was down (on) Centre Court here first round (against Bradley Klahn). I was down match points in the second round (to Lloyd Harris). I saved like I don’t know how many match points this week.
“I played really well the whole week – I’m so happy I won.”
The Australian was now champion. He is projected to rise to no. 76. An amazing return to the top-100 after having dropped to no. 243.