January 20, 2018 / 10:59 AM / in 6 months

Fognini battles past Benneteau in five-set thriller

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Italy’s Fabio Fognini progressed to the round of 16 for the second time at the Australian Open with a 3-6 6-2 6-1 4-6 6-3 victory over French journeyman Julien Benneteau on Saturday.

Tennis - Australian Open - Hisense Arena, Melbourne, Australia, January 20, 2018. Fabio Fognini of Italy reacts during his match against Julien Benneteau of France. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

The 30-year-old Fognini, kitted out in a striking combination of black, white and red with a skull-emblazoned headband, got off to a slow start but soon found his rhythm and went on to record 57 winners in a pulsating encounter.

Tennis - Australian Open - Hisense Arena, Melbourne, Australia, January 20, 2018. Julien Benneteau of France hits a shot against Fabio Fognini of Italy. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

“For sure I’m happy, because at the end I win,” 25th seed Fognini told reporters. “Second time here on the fourth round. I was telling the last day it was always difficult to play for me here, so I’m really, really happy.”

Benneteau, ranked 59th in the world, was struggling with dehydration five games into the second set and eventually lost his cool as he bemoaned a lack of electrolyte drinks on Hisense Arena.

“Where is my drink,” Benneteau asked. “I don’t care... I don’t play without my drink. It’s not my fault.”

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Two games later, Benneteau let his frustration boil over at the chair umpire as the volunteers searched for the drinks.

“It’s unbelievable, you don’t do anything except to give me a warning,” he added.

Benneteau ended up losing the second set before dropping the third as the incident appeared to unsettle him.

The 36-year-old eventually shrugged off the issue with a counter-punching approach to the fourth set, claiming two breaks of serve against Fognini to force a decider.

Fognini, however, found another gear to clinch the final set and set up a last 16 clash against big-serving Czech Tomas Berdych.

Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru

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