In 2011 Fognini achieved a number of breakthroughs. He reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam event for the first time at the 2011 French Open. He defeated Denis Istomin in the first round and qualifier Stéphane Robert in the second. In the third round, Fognini beat Guillermo García-López, the 30th seed, in four sets to advance to his first Grand Slam fourth round. Here, he made the quarterfinals in dramatic fashion as he beat Spaniard Albert Montañés in a match lasting 4 hours and 22 minutes. Barely able to walk at the end, Fognini eventually prevailed and clinched the epic match 11–9 in the fifth set. After the match, he described his run at the French Open as a "little dream", maintaining that he "would love to play the next match . . . even if I'm only at 50 percent". He was due to face World No. 2 Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals but, prior to the match, he announced that he had made the "difficult" decision to withdraw on doctors' advice that it would be "dangerous" to play. Nonetheless, Fognini became the first Italian man in the French Open quarterfinals since 1995 and the first to reach that stage at a Grand Slam since 1998. His achievement saw him rise to a then career-high singles ranking of World No. 32.