Rafael Nadal missed six and a half months during the pandemic in 2020. The Spaniard returned to the court in September, competing at his only pre-Roland Garros event in Rome. Rafa won two matches to enter the quarter-final, facing Diego Schwartzman for the tenth time.
The Argentine scored a 6-2, 7-5 victory in the night session and celebrated his first victory over the Spaniard! Struggling with the conditions and an impressive rival on the other side of the net, Rafa was outplayed in almost every department.
He made too many errors and never moved the opponent from his comfort zone. Diego turned 54% of the return points won into five breaks. He got broken only two times and moved over the top in style. The Argentine stayed focused throughout the duel, choosing the right shots and advancing into the last four.
Diego saved a break point in the encounter's fourth game and gained a boost. He rattled off five straight games and closed the opener in style with breaks in games five and seven. The Argentine had 13 winners and five unforced errors, doing everything right and leaving the defending champion far behind.
Schwartzman used a slice serve to open the court and fired bullets from both wings to take 22 out of 32 more extended exchanges! Nadal held with a forehand down the line winner in the first game, and Schwartzman held at 15 in the next one for 1-1.
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.
He landed a forehand crosscourt winner and opened a 3-2 gap. The Argentine confirmed the break with a volley winner in game six, controlling the rallies' pace and finding an open space to outplay powerless Nadal. 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.
Diego Schwartzman beat Rafael Nadal in Rome 2020.
With momentum on his side, the Argentine earned two break chances at the beginning of the second set with a backhand crosscourt winner. He wasted them and hit a backhand wide to hand the game to the Spaniard.
Schwartzman produced fantastic quickness and skills in the second game to save a break point, gaining more boost and holding at love with a drop shot winner to level the score at 2-2. Nadal delivered another masterclass 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 Rafa a few minutes later when the Spaniard went for another terrible drop shot, having no other option while trying to penetrate his opponent.
Turning on his fighting spirit, Rafa pulled the break back with a smash winner in game eight, leveling the score at 4-4 and hoping 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. With nothing working his way behind the initial shot, the defending champion got broken at 15 when Diego landed a backhand winner.
The Argentine served for the victory for the second time at 6-5, and the Spaniard placed a forehand wide to offer a match point to his rival. Diego seized it with a volley winner to emerge at the top and celebrate his first victory over a great opponent.