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Cool, calm Fognini looks like a legitimate threat

PARIS -- Fabio Fognini, whose dashing manner and personality are every bit as flamboyant as his name, has a history of histrionics. He does not maintain anything even close to an even keel.

Back in February, the volatile Italian lost 6-1 in the first set to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals in Rio de Janeiro -- and then thumped him 6-2, 7-5. He followed that up with a straight-sets loss to David Ferrer in the final.

In April, Fognini somehow beat history's best clay-court player a second time on his favorite surface, in straight sets, in the Barcelona round of 16. And then he fell to No. 66-ranked Pablo Andujar in the final. There have also been losses this year to Carlos Berlocq (No. 74) and Alejandro Gonzalez (No. 107).

On Monday, the fabulous one played Japan's Tatsuma Ito -- who had won exactly one match over the 2015 season. Oddly enough, there were no meltdowns as Fognini prevailed 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

Afterward, Fognini was told he looked remarkably calm.

"I am," he said, smiling. "So why are you surprised?"

It was so one-sided that his girlfriend, Flavia Pennetta, who also advanced to the second round here, was confident enough to leave the players' box after the first set. The No. 28 seed declined numerous opportunities to engage the lines people -- even after an awkwardly timed and rarely called foot fault. Instead, Fognini laughed out loud when a ball girl struggled with a door that suddenly swung open along the baseline and kept up a steady dialogue with his two coaches -- and himself.

Fognini needed the win to level his 2015 record at 13-13, but he could be dangerous here. If the seeds hold, he would face No. 14 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round. This isn't really a stretch, because Fognini's best Grand Slam performance ever was the quarterfinals here in 2011, when a leg injury forced him to grant a walkover to Novak Djokovic.

"I am happy for sure about my performance," Fognini said. "We have tension because it's a big tournament. Three sets to love in first match is never easy, so happy to play again and go into the second round."