If Nicolas Jarry was nervous at the start of his maiden ATP World Tour championship match on Sunday, he certainly did not show it. The 22-year-old won the first 13 points of the Brasil Open final, using his thunderous forehand to race to a one-set lead against Fabio Fognini in just 22 minutes. The Chilean then held break point in the opening game of the second set, but sailed a forehand long while in control of the point — an unforced error he will rue.
From then on, Fognini dug into the red clay in Sao Paulo, and the top-ranked Italian turned around the momentum to defeat Jarry 1-6, 6-1, 6-4 in one hour, 33 minutes for his first title since 2017 Gstaad, and his sixth trophy overall. The 30-year-old is now 6-9 in ATP World Tour finals, and all six of his triumphs have come on clay.
Fognini, who now has 14 victories on the season (14-4) — second on the ATP World Tour behind Dominic Thiem (16) — is the first Italian to capture the Brasil Open crown since the tournament began in 2001 and the first European to win the event since Rafael Nadal in 2003. Last year, it took Fognini until the Internazionali BNL D'Italia in May to earn his 14th win of the season.
One week after returning to the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings for the first time since February 2015, Fognini will use the 250 points he earns to rise another spot to No. 19 on Monday. He also takes home $92,085 in prize money.
Jarry was attempting to become the first Chilean to capture an ATP World Tour title since Fernando Gonzalez at 2009 Vina del Mar. Prior to February, he had never reached a tour-level quarter-final. But since, he advanced to his first quarter-final in Quito, his maiden semi-final in Rio de Janeiro, and his first final this week in Sao Paulo. The 150 ATP Rankings points Jarry claims will send him to a career-best World No. 61 on Monday. He also earns $48,500.
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And for a while, it looked like the Chilean would climb even higher than that. Jarry was in complete control of the match in the early going, rocketing forehands in every direction, frustrating Fognini. But as soon as he missed a forehand on break point to start the second set, the match turned around. The Italian began to put more balls in play, and groundstrokes that had been whizzing past him were suddenly crashing into the net or sailing long. Fognini raising his level caused more unforced errors from the Chilean's racquet, which forced Jarry to back off, allowing the Italian to play more aggressively himself.
When Fognini broke and then held for a 2-0 lead in the deciding set, it appeared that he was on the doorstep of his sixth tour-level trophy. But like he had all week — all four of Jarry's wins in Sao Paulo came in three sets and the past three were come-from-behind victories — the 22-year-old battled until the end.
Jarry found crushed an inside-out backhand for a clean winner to earn his third break of the day — Fognini had been broken just once the entire tournament prior to Sunday — to get back on serve at 2-2. But Fognini was too steady, as Jarry sailed a forehand approach shot to concede the decisive break in the set's seventh game.
Did You Know?
Fognini did not claim his 14th victory of the 2017 season until the Internazionali BNL D'Italia in May. His victory against Jarry on Sunday was his 14th of 2018.