He went to the semi-finals of the Masters 1000 in Rome with brilliant tennis. But the Spaniard made 30 unforced errors.
The idea drawn up by Juan Ignacio Chela was clear and he repeated it to Diego Schwartzman before going to the central court of the Italic Forum: “You have to try to play close to the line and use the center to avoid giving an angle to your shots. You have to load from the wrong side and press from the right. And send in front … ”
With that game plan that began to shape from the fifth game of the match, the Argentine began to build a shocking triumph over a brick dust than, damp by the warm Roman night, it was transformed into a perfect ally for his aspirations to defeat the best slow court player in history – already one of the best of all time- for the first time in his career.
Of course, Schwartzman did not have an unexpected item …
Both he and the Spaniard are two of the most consistent tennis players in the world. This means that few mistakes are made in each game. Points must be earned by both of you because they don’t give anything away. Never. And this time the porteño, who did not bring good feelings after a poor performance in the New York bubble and who in his two previous presentations in Rome had left doubts in the victories against the Australian Millman and the Polish Hurkacz (with pure heart he raised a very complicated that he lost 4-2 in the third set), he found a strangely human Nadal on the court that suits him best.
The 30 unforced errors that the former world number 1 made they were too attractive an invitation to strike. Some were incredible mistakes with his drive, his best shot with which he (almost) always exercises supreme power over the opponent on duty. He also did not have winners and the serve, which is not his best weapon, almost never worked for him, Of course Nadal always finds resources when the service does not pay him and that is where Schwartzman opposed him with brilliant play and impeccable tactical clarity.
He was able to win it even more forcefully. But in front was a player who loves competition and who will never give up. Then, between his own nerves and Nadal’s own love, the end lasted a while longer. He could win it at 5-4 and let the chance pass. He had the next one at 6-5 and there he did not forgive for unleash all his joy shared with his girlfriend, the model Eugenia De Martino, his physical trainer Martiniano Orazi and Chela himself.
This Sunday he will have a tough test against a Denis Shapovalov who is on the rise, who has a very fast ball and, above all, is going through a moment of great confidence. He has Schwartzman tennis to reach his first final in a Masters 1000 and to dream of a very intense Roland Garros. He has tennis and also has that consistency (some also say solidity) that make him one of the most difficult and annoying players on the circuit on slow courts.
That consistency that this Saturday did not have Nadal. Perhaps because he got up on a bad day and because at some point the long inactivity could take its toll. He returned to play in Rome after the pandemic stopped. But, perhaps, because on the other side of the network he had an adversary who knows him a lot and who one Saturday night also dared to download him from the poster of the piece to unleash the emotion of a victory that he will surely remember for a long time.