There will be a new ATP Masters 1000 title leader on Sunday. Top seed Novak Djokovic escaped past Argentina's Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-3 on Saturday evening to reach his ninth Rome final and 49th title match at the Masters 1000 level.
The four-time Rome champion set up a final between No. 1 and No. 2 at the season's final clay-court Masters 1000 event: Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, both with 33 Masters 1000 titles, meeting for the 54th time.
The Serbian leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 28-25, including having won four of their seven Rome contests and nine of their past 11 overall. Nadal, however, has won 16 of their 23 clay-court matchups. The Spaniard avenged his Mutua Madrid Open semi-final loss to Greece's #NextGenATP star Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 earlier Saturday to reach his first tour-level final since the Australian Open in January.
Djokovic, last week's Mutua Madrid Open champion, and Schwartzman hadn't played since 2017 Roland Garros, when the 5'7” Argentine led the Serbian two sets to one before losing in five. And the first-time Masters 1000 finalist pushed Djokovic again in Rome.
The Argentine rallied well from the baseline, stepping in to angle off forehands and attack the net. Both players turned to the mid-rally drop shot to keep their opponent off balance, but Schwartzman often got the better of Djokovic during those exchanges. For Schwartzman, however, the Serbian's return of serve pitted against the Argentine's biggest weakness – his serve – was too much of a mismatch to overcome.
Djokovic especially pounced on Schwartzman's second serve, pinning the Argentine behind the baseline to start the point. The Serbian broke in the eighth game after Schwartzman struggled to land a first serve, including on break point.
Schwartzman had broken 50 per cent (18/36) of the time heading into the semi-final, and with the crowd wanting more tennis, he started a string of four consecutive breaks in the second set, including at 5-3 when Schwartzman tried to serve it out. But he eventually ran away with the tie-break.
In the third, the Serbian pulled off one of the shots of the night – a sliding short-angle forehand winner – to set up a break point in the fifth game.
Did You Know?
Schwartzman was 0-15 against Top 6 players before he beat Kei Nishikori on Friday to make the Rome semi-finals.