It was a unique match for the Argentine. It was the great victory of his life. Diego Schwartzman’s triumph over Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals of the Masters 1000 in Rome was chosen this Friday by the ATP as the third biggest surprise of this particular year.
The 6-2 and 7-5 will always be remembered by Schwartzman, who finally had the pleasure of beating one of the greatest in history. And the plus of his epic success over Nadal was that he achieved it on clay, the favorite surface of both, especially the Spaniard, who later reached the record of 13 titles on the clay at Roland Garros, where he retaliated against the South American in the semifinals.
Nadal had won his first nine meetings against Schwartzman and given up just two sets. The Argentine knew that he would have to make a superlative effort to overthrow the nine-time champion at the Foro Italico, which he finally achieved in that traditional contest.
“It sure is my best game,” Schwartzman said. “I played a few times against the three great tennis champions. I never beat them until today. I am very happy,” he remarked that historic day.
Like Goliath, Nadal is a giant on the court. That’s especially the case on clay, where the Spaniard intimidates opponents with his strong forehand with topspin. But David (in this case, Diego) faced the giant. Schwartzman stood his ground on the baseline and traded blow for blow with the legendary southpaw in tough conditions.
Instead of Nadal pushing him with his right, he was the one who moved away from the baseline. The crossover rallies, which pitted Nadal’s forehand against Schwartzman’s backhand, recalled some of Rafa’s clashes against Serbian Novak Djokovic.
Whenever Nadal tried to turn things around and play cat and mouse, Diego had an answer. “It was crazy. Tennis is crazy. Our performance is always crazy. The last three weeks were really bad for me,” Schwartzman said on the court after his victory. “Today I played my best tennis,” he repeated.
“Yes!” Schwartzman screamed. David had killed Goliath. Then he added another victory and entered a Mastes 1000 final for the first time. Then, in Paris, he agreed for the first time in his career to a Grand Slam semi-final, although Nadal deprived him of more at the French Open.
But that day in Rome, no matter what happened before and after, will always be burned into the memory of the Argentine, installed in the Top 10 of the ATP.