Fognini has been playing into the tournament. While he was close to losing his match with Kamke, the German helping Fognini to survive by letting go of a break advantage, he was leading most of his match against Sergiy Stakhovsky and only stumbled when closing it out. His quarterfinal match vs Spain's Robert Bautista-Agut was the most straightforward one yet. Although Fognini failed to serve out the match leading 6-4, 5-4, he took the second set tiebreak easily, to win 6-4, 7-6(1) and looks to be the favorite in his Semifinal match against Daniel Gimeno-Traver.
Wednesday was sick day in St. Petersburg, beginning with Igor Andreev's withdrawal from the tournament. Andreev had injured his left shoulder during Russia's Davis Cup loss in Brazil the weekend before. While Andreev's loss upset Russian fans, he had never had much success at the St. Petersburg Open, never having moved past the Second Round.
There were also retirements on Wednesday. Philipp Petzhner retired against Lithuania's Ricardas Berankis with a left leg injury and Qualifier Andrey Kumantsov ended his loss to 8th seed Jurgen Zopp early, bowing out at 3-6, 3-5 with dizziness.
The next match between Berankis and Zopp also resulted in the Lithuanian benefitting from injury, as Zopp stopped play after losing the first set, retiring with a lower back injury. Italy's Paolo Lorenzi also retired on Thursday versus Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, with a lower Achilles injury.
Russia suffered a blow last week in a Davis Cup loss to Brazil in the World Group Play-offs , and the weaknesses in the country's men's tennis can be seen even at this ATP tournament. The vast majority of the ballkids in St. Petersburg are girls.
"What if Nike calls Rafa?"
As for the other issue in tennis bringing up gender issues in recent months, the question of prize money remains top of mind for players. Daniel Gimeno-Traver, ranked 93rd in the world, is the type of player most affected by the argued unfairness in prize money distribution between the early and later rounds at Grand Slams. The Spaniard says the issue is very much discussed in locker rooms around the ATP World and Challenger Tours and believes that players would widely support any action to achieve the prize money increase, including a boycott of the Australian Open, "if top players do it." He suggests sponsor obligations would make it difficult for the top-ranked players to skip a Grand Slam, even if they support the issue.
All the Same
"Who won? The yellow one or the white one?" – Photographer referring to Fognini's and Bautista-Agut's shirts to pick a photo caption.