For nearly a decade, the South American nation of Chile has been waiting for a superstar to follow in the footsteps of legends Marcelo Rios and Fernando Gonzalez. That is, someone to carry the mantle in the country with a strong tennis-rich culture.
Enter Nicolas Jarry. The Santiago native became the first Chilean to reach an ATP World Tour final since former World No. 5 Gonzalez lifted the trophy on home soil in Vina del Mar in 2009. Jarry defeated Horacio Zeballos 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday to advance to the title match at the Brasil Open, where he awaits Italy's Fabio Fognini.
Jarry has been the comeback kid all week in Sao Paulo, rallying from a set down in three straight matches to reach the final. He battled back to register upset wins over Guido Pella and top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas, before topping Zeballos. The 22-year-old needed two hours and seven minutes to advance to the championship match, firing 20 aces, while not facing a break point.
"It was another amazing day," said Jarry. "When I lost the first set, I was thinking if I could come back again once more. I had more confidence as the match went on and moved better to break him. Once I did it, it was just a matter of serving well and going point-by-point. The things went my way."
The grandson of former Top 20 star Jaime Fillol, Jarry has tennis in his blood. Following a breakthrough ATP Challenger Tour campaign in 2017 that saw him win three titles and break into the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings, he has stormed onto the scene on the ATP World Tour this year. A quarter-final in Quito was followed by a semi-final run last week in Rio de Janeiro and now a final in Sao Paulo. He is projected to rise to a career-high of No. 61 on Monday.
"It's been a heck of a ride. I have to keep going and try to improve on and off the court and play as hard as I can. If the things go my way, then that's good. I'm very happy and it's my first ATP final. I hope to have many more."
On Sunday, Jarry will face Fognini for the first time. The Italian veteran has not dropped a set all week, blasting into his 15th ATP World Tour final with a 6-4, 6-2 win over three-time defending champion Pablo Cuevas. Fognini dethroned the Uruguayan in one hour and 11 minutes, saving all three break points faced.
"Today was my best match this week by far," said Fognini, who has opened the season with a 13-4 record. "I'm really happy about my game and how I feel on court. I'm in the final now and will try to win the title. I'm feeling really good and while it's only the beginning of the year, I'm happy and confident with my team. I have a special feeling in Brazil and hopefully they will continue to support me in the final."
Fognini, who scored his fourth FedEx ATP Head2Head victory in six meetings against Cuevas, remains in search of his sixth ATP World Tour title. He has lifted trophies in each of the past two seasons, most recently prevailing on the clay of Gstaad in July. The 30-year-old is bidding for his second title in South America, having triumphed in Vina del Mar in 2014.
"I was going to lose here at some point," said Cuevas. "He is a difficult opponent. Fabio played really well, solid and defended really well from the back. I made a lot of errors, maybe because of yesterday's match, that it was too long. The court was a little bit more slow today. I made several errors and I didn't feel comfortable at any moment during the match."
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