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Fognini, Stich Play On Historic Ocean Liner

Hamburg, Germany

Fognini Stich Hamburg Queen Mary© Hamburg sports & entertainment GmbHFabio Fognini and Michael Stich played tennis on the top deck of RMS Queen Mary 2.

Fabio Fognini, the defending bet-at-home Open champion, joined Tournament Director Michael Stich on the top deck of RMS Queen Mary 2, the world's third largest transatlantic ocean liner, for some mini-tennis on Tuesday in the harbour of Hamburg.

“It was really fun playing with Michael,” said the Italian. “He was an idol to me when I was young, I used to watch him on TV. He was one of the best players in the world having won Wimbledon and many other tournaments. Playing with him today was great, maybe it will never happen again.”

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The two players enjoyed the unique experience of hitting on the Queen Mary 2, which was the longest (345 metres), fastest and most expensive passenger ship at the time of her construction. Currently celebrating its 10th birthday, the ocean liner includes 15 restaurants and bars, five swimming pools, a casino, a ballroom, a theatre and the first planetarium at sea, and accommodates 2,620 passengers and 1,253 crew members.

“It's the first time for me playing on a ship,” said Fognini. “It was something special, something very different and new. I really enjoyed it!”

Stich, in turn, was impressed with the view from the top deck. “I have never played on something this high before so it's a premiere for me. The scenery here is great with the beautiful Hamburg skyline.”

Fognini lifted the trophy at the ATP World Tour 500 clay-court tournament last year after saving three match points against Argentine Federico Delbonis in the final, and begins his title defence Wednesday against Serbian qualifier Filip Krajinovic.

“I am coming to Hamburg with very good memories from last year,” he said. “I remember being very lucky in the final saving match points. But it is in the past and I have to focus on the present. I have a lot of expectations but my first match will be difficult.

“I played great tennis in Wimbledon even though I lost in five sets in the third round. I worked well after that and I played well in Stuttgart last week reaching the semi-finals.”

Stich, himself a Hamburg champion (1993, d. Chesnokov), welcomed Fognini's return to Am Rothenbaum.

“It's very important for any tournament to have its defending champion return," said Stich. "Last year it was Fabio's biggest success so far on the Tour. Hopefully he really enjoys being back!"

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