Friday, March 15, 2019 - Novak Djokovic & Fabio Fognini play Lukasz Kubot & Marcelo Melo in the semifinal match of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Michael Cummo/BNP Paribas Open)
Certainly far better known for their singles careers rather than their doubles, the Novak Djokovic and Fabio Fognini partnership has been turning heads ever since their names appeared beside each other when the doubles draw was released at the start of the tournament.
They continued their head-turning tennis, from moments of shot-making brilliance to hilarious on-court antics, in Friday’s semifinal. Despite coming out on the losing end of a high-quality 7-6(5), 2-6, [10-6] decision to doubles specialists Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, the sixth-seeded team at the BNP Paribas Open this season and finalists back in 2017.
The match featured a slow start from the Serbian-Italian duo, although they’d quickly level proceedings against the 2017 Wimbledon doubles champions. Unable to capitalize on their momentum in the first-set tiebreak, they raced off to an early lead in the second courtesy of some brilliant shotmaking, which included a stunning around-the-net shot off the racquet of Fognini.
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 16, 2019
Yet it was their volleys – not passing shots – that let them down in the first-to-ten match tiebreak. Frustrated by their opponents’ steadiness and soundness in tactics (to be expected from a full-time doubles duo), Djokovic/Fognini would go down after one hour and 40 minutes of compelling competition.
Given that the grind of singles is a time-consuming one, who knows when we might see Team #Djokognini back in action next – but fans at the BNP Paribas Open this year won’t soon forget the show they were treated to by one of the most eccentric doubles pairings of the tournament.
Up next for Kubot and Melo is the unseeded team of Nikola Mektic and Horacio Zeballos, who prevailed yesterday in two tight tiebreaks over the former World No. 1 team of Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic. They will face off tomorrow at 5pm PST for their respective first BNP Paribas Open trophies.