After loss in Rome, Murray looks to regroup for Paris
ABS-CBN Sports on May 17, 2017 10:51 AM
Andy Murray, of Britain, returns the ball to Fabio Fognini, of Italy, during the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
ANDREW DAMPF, AP Sports Writer
ROME (AP) — Andy Murray is going to the French Open with his game in tatters.
Maria Sharapova isn't going at all.
The top-ranked Murray was eliminated by local favorite Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-4 before a raucous crowd in his opening match at the Italian Open on Tuesday.
Sharapova, a three-time champion at the Foro Italico, retired from her second-round match with a left thigh injury hours after learning she would not be granted a wild card for Roland Garros due to her recent doping ban.
Sharapova was leading Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 4-6, 6-3, 2-1 when she called it quits.
Murray, meanwhile, has had a brief clay-court season, winning five matches (one by walkover), losing four, and failing to defend his Rome title.
"The last couple of weeks has definitely been a struggle and a long way from where I would like to be," Murray said.
The French Open starts in less than two weeks.
"I need to turn it around quick," Murray said
Italy's top player at No. 29, Fognini frustrated Murray with drop shots.
"Fabio did play some good drop shots, but I wasn't actually making a move or a step towards the ball," Murray said.
The unpredictable Fognini led 5-1 in the second set and nearly let Murray force a third set with a series of errors but finally closed it out when he served for the match for a second time.
Flavia Pennetta, Fognini's wife and the 2015 U.S. Open champion, is expecting the couple's first child any day.
"My tournament could end any moment so I've got to enjoy this for now," Fognini said.
Fans at the Foro Italico chanted for Fognini as if they were at a soccer match, and organizers blasted Neopolitan folk music over the stadium's loudspeaker after his win.
Sharapova had left the court for an injury timeout during the second game of her third set. She came back with her left thigh taped and managed to win a game despite serving softly, then walked to the net after Lucic-Baroni held serve.
The retirement came 2 1/2 hours after French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli announced he would not invite Sharapova to Roland Garros because of her past doping ban.
"I apologize for having to withdraw from my match today with a left thigh injury. I will be getting all the necessary examinations to make sure it is not serious," Sharapova said in a statement. "I want to thank the tournament for giving me the opportunity to play in this special event again."
Sharapova returned last month following a 15-month ban for testing positive for the banned heart drug meldonium at last year's Australian Open.
The Russian has accepted wild cards to enter all three of her tournaments since her return.
"It is the correct decision," Lucic-Baroni said of the French Open decision. "Brave of them, because everybody is pressured. People want to see Maria."
"If you want to invest more money in doping tests then you can't reward a person who failed a doping test," Lucic-Baroni added, saying there should be a rule against wild cards for players returning from bans.
Earlier, four-time champion Novak Djokovic overcame a challenging first set to beat British qualifier Aljaz Bedene 7-6 (2), 6-2.
Bedene, who was born in Slovenia and obtained British citizenship two years ago, frustrated Djokovic for long stretches with his footspeed, keeping the ball in play and whipping surprising winners.
At the conclusion of a tight first set, Djokovic served three aces in the tiebreaker then laughed to himself in apparent astonishment.
Also, David Goffin rallied past Fernando Verdasco 3-6, 6-3, 6-2; Tomas Berdych notched his 600th career win by beating qualifier Carlos Berlocq 6-3, 6-4; Jack Sock defeated Diego Schwartzman 6-4, 1-6, 7-5; and Alexander Zverev outlasted Kevin Anderson 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the tournament with a hip injury.
In other women's action, last year's finalist, Madison Keys, was beaten by Australian qualifier Daria Gavrilova 2-6, 7-5, 7-5.
Keys is still struggling to regain her form after left wrist surgery in the offseason. She also had opening-round losses in her previous two tournaments in Charleston and Madrid.
The 33rd-ranked Gavrilova had to come through qualifying because she forgot to enter the main draw.
Also, fifth-seeded Johanna Konta defeated Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-0; Ekaterina Makarova eliminated Roberta Vinci 6-2, 6-1; and qualifier Catherine Bellis beat Misako Doi 6-4, 7-6 (6).
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