Diego Schwartzman has left the tennis world in disbelief after pulling off the hardest task in the sport: beating Rafael Nadal on clay.
Nadal crashed out of the Italian Open on Saturday, falling to a straight sets defeat to Argentine Schwartzman in a tournament the Spaniard had won nine times.
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Eight-seeded Schwartzman meted out a punishing 6-2, 7-5 loss in Nadal's final warm-up before his bid for a 13th French Open, and record-equalling 20th Grand Slam in just over a week.
Nadal was vying for a remarkable third straight clay court title in Rome, but his gutsy opponent obviously failed to read the script.
Schwartzman - who had never once beaten Nadal - brutally exposed the World No.2's shaky serve, breaking the Spaniard twice before taking out the opening set.
The second was a much tenser affair but again it was the eighth-seeded underdog who came out on top, much to the astonishment of onlookers.
What is going on with Nadal 🥺. Shwartzman is just breaking your serve anyhow 😳— ig @fab_yemmie (@fab_yemmie) September 19, 2020
This is some brilliance from @dieschwartzman . Defeating the king of clay Rafael Nadal on clay in straight sets is unbelievable. He was consistent right from the word go. Aggressive attitude did the rest.#diegoschwartzman #rafaelnadal @RafaelNadal #italianopen #RomeMasters— Karan (@KaranChoksi6) September 19, 2020
😱😱😲😲🔥🔥👌👌— ThaLaPaThYaN (@tamizhanlogesh) September 19, 2020
Insane stuff & unbelievable!!@dieschwartzman Vs @RafaelNadal#Schwartzman defeats #Nadal in clay & reached SEMI FINALS in #IBI20
Whatta way to reach semi??
Whatta straight win????#Tennis #IBI2020
My God Schwartzman is Nadaling on clay VS Nadal!— Manar Salah (@Manora23) September 19, 2020
Epic level of shotmaking from Diego, he might be able to pull that elusive win over Rafa after all!#ATPRome
“It was not my night at all,” said Nadal, who had won all nine previous meetings against 28-year-old Schwartzman, but could not match his rival's stunning game on the red clay of the Foro Italico.
“He played a great match, not me, when this happens you have to lose,” continued the 34-year-old.
“It's not a moment for excuses. I've spent a long time without competing, I played two good matches.”
The two-time defending champion was making his comeback after a six-month coronavirus-enforced break having skipped the US Open ahead of Roland Garros with its first round on September 27.
“Losing as many serves, you can't expect to win a match, it's something that I have to fix, I know how to do it,” he warned.
“It's a special and unpredictable year, I'll probably go back home and let's see.”
Schwartzman next plays Canadian 12th seed Denis Shapovalov for a place in the final.
“Today I played my best tennis,” said the Argentine.
Angry Djokovic rolls on in Rome
Meanwhile, World No.1 Novak Djokovic let his frustrations spill over in a two-hour battle with 97th-ranked German rival Dominik Koepfer.
Two weeks after his US Open default for accidently hitting a line judge with a ball, the Serb struggled to contain his emotions, throwing his racket after a lost service game, with shouts of anger resounding in the silence of the empty Central Court.
"Well, let me tell you that it's not the first nor the last racquet that I'll break in my career. I have done it before," he warned.
"I'll probably do it again. I don't want to do it, but when it comes, it happens.
"That's how I guess I release sometimes my anger."
Djokovic was broken four times before advancing to his 11th semi-final in Rome, where he reached the final nine times and won four titles.
The 33-year-old next plays Norway's Casper Ruud who also needed to fight to get past Italian fourth seed Matteo Berrettini 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5).