Rafael Nadal returns the ball against Diego Schwartzman during the Rome Open match. (Alfredo Falcone / LaPresse)
Rome – Diego Schwartzman took it upon himself to put an early end to Rafael Nadal's first tournament in seven months.
The Argentine defeated the Spaniard 6-2, 7-5 on Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open.
“It was the best game of my life,” Schwartzman said.
Nadal, a nine-time monarch in Rome, had never lost to Schwartzman, 15th in the world rankings, in nine games. But the “Peque” dictated the rhythm of the exchanges from the baseline and achieved a series of winners through drop-shots.
Instead, the Iberian star made unforced errors and showed atypical difficulties in putting his first serve into play.
Nadal acknowledged that, for two months in the coronavirus pandemic, he had not even touched a racket.
“It is an absolutely extraordinary and unpredictable year,” he said. “At least I played three games.”
Nadal, who decided not to participate in the US Open due to concerns of traveling amid the pandemic, had not participated in a pageant since February, when he was crowned in Acapulco, Mexico.
Now, he has a week to recover before embarking on his quest for a 13th French Open title, thereby extending his own record. The activity at Roland Garros begins next weekend.