Fognini is No. 44 in the world rankings but is 9-2 in Davis Cup matches. He was given the first match of Friday's singles against No. 13-ranked Marin Cilic.
The Croatia-Italy best-of-five series is to be determined on an indoor red clay court in Turin, Italy. It is one of eight Davis Cup series this weekend, with the winners going into the quarterfinals April 5-7. The Croatia-Italy winner plays either Spain or Canada.
After the Fognini-Cilic match Friday, Italy's Andrea Seppi, who has moved to a personal best No. 18 ranking, is to take on No. 59 Ivan Dodig. They will switch opponents for Sunday's reverse singles, with the Seppi-Cilic match going first in the final day of the series.
A pair of Top 100 players -- Simone Bolelli and Paolo Lorenzi -- is to take on Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic in Saturday's doubles.