Despite failing to win an ATP title, Diego Schwartzman will finish the 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 final.
Speaking about those matches, Schwartzman said they belong in the group of 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, securing the first victory over the king of clay following nine straight defeats.
Diego notched a 6-2, 7-5 triumph, taking advantage of Rafa struggling with conditions and never feeling comfortable. Diego secured five breaks from 54% of the return points on his tally, getting broken only 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. Diego saved a break point in the fourth game and had the upper hand after that, rattling off five consecutive games and closing the opener with breaks in games five and seven.
Nadal held with a forehand down the line winner in the first game, with Schwartzman finding 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 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 advantage with a volley winner, controlling the rallies' pace and finding an open space to outplay powerless Nadal.
Diego Schwartzman defeated Rafael Nadal in straight sets in Rome.
With no solutions to turn the scoreboard around, 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, 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 repel a break point, bringing the game home to remain in touch. Diego held at 15 in game six thanks to a backhand down the line winner and broke Nadal 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, 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, serving 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, with the Argentine serving for the victory for the second time.
Rafa placed a forehand wide in that 12th game to offer a match point to his rival, allowing Schwartzman to convert it with a volley winner and seal the deal. "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, and I stayed focused and kept a positive spirit. Those two wins are among the best of my career," Diego Schwartzman said.