Diego Schwartzman advanced to his second consecutive Rome semi-final, dethroning the nine-time champion Rafael Nadal 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and three minutes. Struggling with the conditions and an impressive rival on the other side of the net, Rafa was outplayed in almost every department and made too many mistakes.
Diego secured five breaks from 54% of the return points won, getting broken twice to move over the top in style and advance into the last four. It was their tenth meeting and the first victory for the Argentine, who stayed focused almost all the time, choosing the right shots and moving through in style.
Schwartzman had 31 winners and 17 unforced errors, leaving Rafa on a 21-30 ratio and dominating the most extended exchanges to find himself over the top. Nadal held with a forehand down the line winner in the first game before the Argentine found the rhythm in game two for a hold at 15 after forcing an error from Rafa.
A serve & volley combo clinched the third game for the Spaniard, who wasted a break chance in the next one following a loose forehand that would cost him dearly. With dynamic and aggressive striking, Schwartzman earned three break chances in the fifth game with a forehand down the line winner, converting the first with a forehand crosscourt winner that sent him 3-2 up.
The Argentine confirmed the break with a volley winner, controlling the rallies' pace and finding an open space to beat powerless Nadal. Rafa got broken again in game seven following a loose drop shot and sprayed a backhand mistake at 2-5 to hand the opener to Diego after 48 minutes.
With a boost on his side, the Argentine forged two break chances at the beginning of the second set with a backhand crosscourt winner, wasting them both and hitting a backhand wide to hand the game to Nadal.
Diego Schwartzman defeated Rafael Nadal in straight sets in Rome.
Schwartzman produced fantastic quickness and skills in the second game to save a break opportunity, gaining more boost and holding at love with a drop shot winner to level the score at 2-2.
Nadal delivered a stellar serve & volley combo in game five to save a break chance, bringing the game home to remain in touch. With nothing to stop him, Diego held at 15 in game six thanks to a backhand down the line winner.
He broke Nadal a few minutes later when the Spaniard went for another terrible drop shot, having no other option to penetrate the opponent. Turning on his fighting spirit, Rafa pulled the break back with a smash winner, leveled the score at 4-4 and hoped for more in the rest of the set.
Not looking back, Diego grabbed a break at love with a forehand down the line winner in game nine and served for the victory. Refusing to surrender, Nadal broke back at love to extend the clash, struggling but giving his everything to turn the tables around and stay in contention.
With nothing working his way behind the initial shot, Nadal got broken at 15 in game 11 when Diego landed a backhand winner, allowing his opponent to serve for the victory for the second time. Rafa placed a forehand wide in that 12th game to offer a match point to his rival, and Schwartzman seized it with a volley winner to seal the deal and topple the nine-time winner.