(JTA) — Apparently the 10th time is the charm: Diego Schwartzman stunned Rafael Nadal in straight sets on Saturday after losing his nine previous matches to the Spanish star.
The Jewish Argentine tennis ace won 6-2, 7-5 in just over two hours in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open, which takes place on clay — Nadal’s best surface. Nadal is ranked No. 2 in the world; Schwartzman is 15th.
“For sure, it’s my best match ever,” the Buenos Aires native said. “I played a few times against the three big champions in tennis. I never beat them until today. I’m very happy.”
The following day, in the semifinals, Schwartzman defeated Denis Shapovalov, a Canadian born in Tel Aviv, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (4).
He’ll face Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked player, in Monday’s final.
Shapovalov’s parents were born in Russia and immigrated to Israel at the collapse of the Soviet Union before moving to Canada. His mother, a former Russian national tennis team player, is Jewish, and his father is Russian Eastern Orthodox Christian. Shapovalov plays for Canada and does not identify as Jewish.
If Schwartzman beats Djokovic, “two dreams,” as he calls them, will come true: winning a prestigious Masters 1000 level tournament, and entering the top 10 in the international rankings for the first time.
Yet just by playing in the finals, he’s already made history: He is the shortest finalist ever, listed at 5-7 (he’s likely even shorter).
Schwartzman has written about his family’s Holocaust history.