“He’s playing great for a couple of years already,” Nadal said. “He has all the shots, very good forehand, very good backhand. He’s so quick. He’s going to hit winners from [a] lot of places [on] the court … I need to be ready to compete at the highest level if I want to have my chances. I’m going to try.”
Fognini reaching the quarterfinals is a bright spot of his 2016 season, which has been slow and very painful. He was just 3-5 going into this week’s ATP 500 event, with just one win since reaching the quarterfinals in Auckland. An abdominal injury suffered in Rio de Janeiro in February forced him to rest for three weeks. He then rehabbed for three weeks, and has been off the tour for nearly two months.
“I feel great because between yesterday and today, I’ve improved my game a lot,” Fognini said. “I’m really happy to be, another time, [in the] quarterfinals here in Barcelona.”
The Italian’s first match back after his absence was a first-round loss to world No. 52 Paolo Lorenzi in Monte Carlo. On Wednesday, Fognini beat the always-dangerous Mikhail Youzhny, 3-6, 6-0, 6-1.
The world No. 31 errs on the volatile side, and he’s unpredictable at best. On Thursday against Troicki, he managed to hold it together from the onset. With a lot of patience and a lot of poise, he took the first set 6-3 from the Serb.
World No. 24 Troicki was the higher seed, and he’s known for his own theatrics, be it arguments with umpires or hijinks over the net. Though he was once famous for a missed drug test that banned him for a year, forcing him to start over, he has fought his way back into the Top 30 and has stayed near there. The Serb’s 2016 season has been the opposite of Fognini’s, with a final showing in Sofia as well as a title in Sydney.