Rafael Nadal suffered a stunning defeat to Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals of Internazionale di Italia – a heavy blow to the French Open preparations for the tennis king on dirt courts.
The 6-2 7-5 loss to Schwartzman in Rome ended Nadal’s record by 100 percent in the competition between them after nine previous wins for the Spaniard.
In the fifth clay court encounter, the first on the surface since Nadal’s four-set victory in the 2018 Roland Garros quarter-finals, Schwartzman swung with victory on the horizon.
With a 5-4 lead in the second set, Nadal broke him a 12-time winner at the French Open.
But the eighth seed immediately broke superbly and then nerve-wracked to complete an unforgettable success, finishing a ball into the goal just outside the reach of Nadal who was stranded.
The result ends the possibility of a final match between Nadal and top seed Djokovic on Monday, with Schwartzman moving to play Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the fourth round of the tournament.
“Today I played my best tennis. [It was] “Very similar to Roland Garros versus Rafa three years ago and I’m very happy,” Schwartzman said in an interview after the match on the field. “I didn’t really think about beating him because I wasn’t playing well lately. But today I tried my best and I’m very happy.”
There were clear mitigating circumstances behind Nadal’s unusually early exit, given that this was his first tournament since February.
The 34-year-old tested non-resumption of tennis in the United States last month, skipping the US Open due to concerns about international long-distance travel during the coronavirus period.
Shapovalov was the winner 6-2 3-6 6-2 against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria earlier on Saturday.