Despite failing to win an ATP title, Diego Schwartzman finished the 2020 season inside the top-10 for the first time. Following early losses in Cincinnati, the US Open and Kitzbuhel, Diego showed his A-game in Rome, beating Rafael Nadal in the quarters and prevailing over Denis Shapovalov in the semis to advance into the title clash against Novak Djokovic.
Speaking about those matches, Schwartzman said they are among his finest triumphs, gathering confidence following a win over Rafa and using that momentum to prevail over the Canadian. The Argentine needed two hours and three minutes to dethrone Nadal at Foro Italico, securing the first victory over the king of clay following nine straight defeats.
Diego notched a 6-2, 7-5 triumph after taking advantage of Rafa's struggles with conditions, as he never felt comfortable. Diego secured five breaks from 54% of the return points on his tally and got broken twice to move over the top in style.
The Argentine had 31 winners and 17 unforced errors, taming his strokes nicely and outplaying the Spaniard in the most extended rallies to seal the deal in straight sets. In the opener's fourth game, Diego saved a break chance and had the upper hand after that, rattling off five consecutive games and closing the set with breaks in games five and seven.
Nadal held with a forehand down the line winner in the first game, and Schwartzman found the rhythm in game two for a hold at 15. A serve & volley combo clinched the third game for the Spaniard, who wasted a break chance in the next one following a loose forehand.
With dynamic and aggressive striking, Schwartzman earned three break chances at 2-2 with a forehand down the line winner and converted the first with a forehand crosscourt winner. The Argentine confirmed the advantage with a volley winner, controlling the rallies and finding an open space to outplay powerless Nadal.
Diego Schwartzman defeated Rafael Nadal in straight sets in Rome last year.
With no solutions, Rafa got broken in game seven following a poor drop shot and sprayed a backhand mistake at 2-5 to hand the opener to Diego. With momentum 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 landing a backhand wide to hand the game to Nadal.
Schwartzman produced fantastic quickness and skills in the second game to save a break chance, gain a boost and hold at love with a drop shot winner to lock the result at 2-2. Nadal delivered another masterclass serve & volley combo in game five to repel a break chance and brought the game home to remain in touch.
Diego held at 15 in game six thanks to a backhand down the line winner, and he broke Rafa a few minutes later when the Spaniard opted 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 wished 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 in the next one. Refusing to surrender, Nadal broke back at love to extend the clash, struggling but giving his everything to turn the tables around.
With nothing working his way behind the initial shot, Nadal suffered a break at 15 when Schwartzman landed a backhand winner, and the Argentine served 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 converted it with a volley winner to seal the deal and move into the last four.
"Victory over Rafael Nadal in Rome gave me confidence and helped me pass the next obstacle in Denis Shapovalov. I had to dig deep against the Canadian, staying focused and keeping a positive spirit. Those two wins are among the best of my career," Diego Schwartzman said.