ATP Rome: Novak Djokovic halts Diego Schwartzman to set Rafael Nadal clash

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ATP Rome: Novak Djokovic halts Diego Schwartzman to set Rafael Nadal clash

On Friday night, Novak Djokovic had to give his 120% at Foro Italico to overpower Juan Martin del Potro in the quarter-final in Rome saving two match points to set the duel against another Argentinian. The crowd had a chance to enjoy another thrilling encounter under the lights on Saturday, with the four-time Rome champion taking down Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 after two hours and 31 minutes, advancing to the 49th Masters 1000 final and the ninth in Rome!

Two years ago, Schwartzman pushed Novak to five sets at Roland Garros and he gave his everything tonight as well, facing only five break points but getting broken four times. On the other hand, Novak stayed rock-solid behind the initial shot, playing against four break points and giving serve away twice to mount the pressure on the other side of the net.

They had an identical number of errors and almost the same amount of winners, drawing the most from each other in both the shortest and more extended exchanges to give the crowd something to remember for a long time. Novak held in the opening game with a service winner and that set the tone for the next six games, with brilliant hitting from both in the service games that brought them to 4-3 after just 27 minutes.

The Argentinian was on the same level as the Serb before the eighth game when he started to miss more, netting a backhand to hand the break to Novak who delivered three winners in game nine for a 6-3 after 36 minutes. Djokovic had a small advantage in the shortest rallies and more noticeable one in the mid-range points with five to eight strokes, delivering one good hold after another to secure the opening part of the match.

From almost an indoor or grass tennis, things were back to "normal" in set number two where they both won more than 40% of the return points in a wild chase towards the finish line that lasted for some 75 minutes!

From 3-2 for Schwartzman, they traded four consecutive breaks and the Argentinian wasted a 4-2 and a 5-3 lead to send the set into a tie break and push the crowd further towards the edge of their seats. Fighting like a lion, Novak broke back at love in game seven and again in the ninth game to extend the set and earn the opportunity to close the match in the tie break.

Instead of that, Diego won all points on serve in the breaker and grabbed two mini-breaks for a 7-2, setting up a decider after an hour and 50 minutes. Battling to find the last piece of energy left in the body, they traded five easy service games in the final set before Novak made the crucial step and broke Diego for a 4-2 lead after a backhand error from the Argentinian, sealing another impressive triumph with a hold in game nine to join Rafael Nadal in the title match.