After scripting a historic five-set thriller on the John Cain Arena, Fabio Fognini and Salvatore Caruso ended it with an ugly battle and had to be separated by officials.
Fognini, seeded 16, defeated Caruso 4-6, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(12) in nearly four hours in the first all-Italian Australian Open men’s singles match of the Open Era.
The traditional handshake at the net quickly degenerated into a heated argument when Fognini suggested Caruso was lucky on some points in the match. Caruso wasn’t too impressed with Fognini’s observation. This is how the conversation went:
Fognini: You HAVE been …. lucky, you should apologise. I didn’t disrespect you until now
Caruso: What are you talking about?!
Fognini: You won four identical lucky points. Can’t I say you have been ….. lucky?
Caruso: I didn’t dare to say a single word in the whole match
Fognini: Why are you breaking my ball then? I just said you were lucky. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. You don’t need to come at me.
Caruso: I didn’t attack you. I’m telling you it’s not the way to behave cause I didn’t tell you a single word. Let’s say, I didn’t expect it from you
After arguing in Italian for more than a minute, the players proceeded to acknowledge the umpire.
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) February 11, 2021
But Caruso, who had started walking towards the players’ tunnel, returned to renew the verbal battle. The Sicilian confronted the 33-year-old Fognini again and the pair had to be separated by the court supervisor.
But neither was forthcoming about the incident during the post-match press conferences.
“We are good friends,” a smiling Fognini later told reporters. “You know me… things that happen on court, stay on court. I have nothing to say about that question anymore.”
When asked to elaborate on the incident, Fognini seemed irritated.
“You understand my words or not?” he said. “Can you please change question, please? Next question, thank you.”