Tennis: Repentant Fabio Fognini fears Australian Open ban

 Stefano Travaglia of Italy hits a return to Fabio Fognini of Italy on the third day of the US Open Tennis Championships at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, Aug 30, 2017.
Stefano Travaglia of Italy hits a return to Fabio Fognini of Italy on the third day of the US Open Tennis Championships at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, Aug 30, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

Milan (AFP) - Hot-headed Italian tennis star Fabio Fognini said he would accept an Australian Open ban after being kicked out of the US Open for a sexist tirade at a female umpire.

The 30-year-old insulted Swedish umpire Louise Engzell after his first-round singles defeat against compatriot Stefano Travaglia.

Fognini, the world No. 26, who is married to 2015 US Open champion Flavia Pennetta, had already been fined US$24,000 (S$32,450) for the incident. But he fears he could now face a ban from the first Grand Slam of next season in Melbourne.

"Should (the Grand Slam Board) decide to ban me from the next Australian Open, I will accept the decision, because actions have consequences, and I need to pay for what I did," he told Italian Sky Sports TV. "I am aware of the severity of my mistake, I take full responsibility for it. A decision will be made, and I'll move on, I'll turn the page, with this stain on my shoulder that will never go away."

He has a controversial history of on-court behaviour and was handed a record fine of US$27,500 at Wimbledon in 2014. But he insisted his Flushing Meadows meltdown would be his last.

"There won't be a next time," he said. "I know what came out of my mouth, I can't take it back, but I know I won't do it again.

"I know this is a character fault of mine. I'm already working with a mental trainer, and I thought that we were on the right track, so I can't really explain this slip-up.

"I have nothing against women, I have been called sexist, which I am not. I am a family man, I have a wife, a mother, a sister: I have always loved women, I have always respected them, and therefore I am very sorry for what I said."

Fognini said Pennetta, with whom he has a three-month-old son Federico, had been very supportive.

"Flavia is sorry for the player Fabio, because she knows how hard I work and how much I sacrifice for my career," he continued. "But she knows I am not like that in everyday life, and that's what's important.

"When Federico grows up I'll tell him that I was disqualified because I behaved badly on court. I wasn't a good example for kids, for those who may see me as an idol, since I am the best-ranked Italian player, and this hurts even more."