MELBOURNE (Reuters) – World number 100 Tennys Sandgren reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open for the second time in three years with an ill-tempered 7-6(5) 7-5 6-7(2) 6-4 victory over combustible Italian Fabio Fognini on Sunday.
The American kept his nerve as his opponent suffered a meltdown and triumphed after a rollercoaster ride of a match to set up a last-eight meeting with Roger Federer or Marton Fucsovics.
Sparks flew on Melbourne Arena after the first set as 12th seed Fognini protested about a foot-fault call and then stormed off court for seven minutes.
Sandgren accused the umpire of lacking the courage to penalise Fognini, who was then docked a point penalty for refusing to play after being broken in his first service game of the second set.
Fognini, complaining of blisters, ripped off his shirt and protested about that call to no avail before going down 0-4. The Italian won the next five games but, as the players continued to snipe at each other across the net, Sandgren edged the set.
The Italian had battled through two five-set matches at the tournament, including coming from two sets down in the opening round to beat Reilly Opelka, and threatened another comeback when he raced away with the third-set tiebreak.
The fourth set stayed on serve until Sandgren produced three straight aces to hold for 5-4 and carried the momentum through to the following game, wrapping up the contest with a drop shot from his knees at the net after a 26-stroke rally.
Sandgren dropped his racket to the floor and gave a flamboyant bow to the crowd as Fognini walked around the net to offer his congratulations.
The two players shook hands with all, apparently, forgiven.
“That was fun right?” Sandgren said. “Playing him is just a war you know, he’s so good. I was expecting a fight and I got it.”
Sandgren’s run to the last eight in 2018 was shrouded in controversy because of links to far-right activists on a social media account.