World no. 13 Diego Schwartzman had a great week in Rome, toppling Rafael Nadal and advancing into the first Masters 1000 final. Not playing on a high level after the season's restart, the Argentine pulled everything together at Foro Italico, battling for the trophy and the place in the top-10, losing both but still leaving Italy with a lot of confidence ahead of Paris.
Asked about the favorites at Roland Garros, Diego mentioned three players who should fight for the trophy at the third and last Major of the season. As always, Rafael Nadal is his first pick, calling the Spaniard "the king of Roland Garros" after his incredible record in Paris.
Still, the Argentine believes Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem should challenge the 12-time winner, beating Nadal on clay before and scoring good results at the clay Major. Schwartzman had the opportunity to face Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in Rome, beating the Spaniard for the first time in ten encounters before losing the title clash against Novak despite a brave effort in the opener.
Schwartzman believes Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem will challenge Rafael Nadal.
In one of his career-best performances, Diego toppled Rafa 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and three minutes, storming over the greatest clay-courter of all time in the opening set and prevailing in the second to reach the semis.
Nadal served at only 43% and that wasn't enough to keep him safe, getting broken five times and not being able to grab at least a set, experiencing the 40th ATP loss on clay in a career. In the semis, Schwartzman had to pass another tough obstacle in Denis Shapovalov, ousting the Canadian in the deciding set tie break after three hours and 15 minutes to set the title clash against Novak Djokovic.
Eager to give his 120%, Diego made the best start against the world's leading player, opening a 3-0 advantage with a double break before Djokovic bounced back, rattling off four straight games to restore the order. The Serb scored a late break to secure the opening set, gathering boost and taking the second 6-3 to move over the top and celebrate the 36th Masters 1000 title, a perfect overture for Roland Garros.
"Novak didn't lose a match on the court this year, getting defaulted but not losing a complete encounter. He plays with a lot of confidence, and that's obvious. Rafa is the king of clay; Roland Garros is his kingdom.
He had many great years in Paris, and those that were not so good, still finishing with the trophy in his hands. He won 11 or 12 titles there but Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem can challenge him," Diego Schwartzman said.