Fabio Fognini, tennis’s sleepy pirate and occasional misogynist, is typically the one doing all the comical, soft-handed trick shots in his matches. I’m the irritable eccentric here in my dumbass camouflage-and-skulls getup, says Fabio Fognini, to no one in particular. But while serving out the match in his 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 Sao Paulo Open final win yesterday, Fognini found himself on the receiving end of Nicolas Jarry’s stroke of weird genius.
Their exchange starts out normal enough: a clay-court rally with Jarry in control, hitting the kinds of crisp groundstrokes that suggest the 22-year-old might soon be a strong presence on this surface. Eventually one of his punishing backhands sends Fognini retreating about 10 feet behind the baseline. Then Jarry, with a short ball and a full slate of finishing options available to him, goes for ... the forehand slice. That’s a rare shot in any scenario, and rarer still when you’re going for the kill. It’s a fake-out. Jarry hacked at the fuzzy tennis ball as if it were a smooth squash ball, or firewood. By the time Fabio realizes what’s happened, the ball is skidding past him, some six inches off the clay.
Fabio can’t do anything but laugh. It’s about as fast as you’ll ever see a slice move, and a funky, intriguing decision from the world No. 61 Jarry. Long live the forehand slice.