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Diego Schwartzman recovered from Kei Nishikori's first-set comeback to book a place in the Rome semi-finals on Friday.

Schwartzman Too Strong For Nishikori In Rome

Argentine to play Djokovic in SF

Diego Schwartzman, competing on his favourite surface, out-hit fellow baseliner Kei Nishikori on Friday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia for a place in his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final.

In a match of several momentum shifts, Schwartzman used his forehand to great effect in a 6-4, 6-2 win over the sixth-seeded Japanese star, who had reached the 2016 semi-finals at the Foro Italico in Rome. It was Schwartzman’s first win over Nishikori in their fourth FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting.

“It's great for me, being in my first Masters 1000 quarter-final,” said Schwartzman. “I'm very happy about today, beating Nishikori. He's a great player in these kind of conditions, in Rome, on clay. I'm really happy and I will now focus on tomorrow.”

The former World No. 11 will now look to advance to his second ATP Tour final of the season (after the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires) on Saturday when he faces World No. 1 and four-time former champion Novak Djokovic, who saved two match points and beat seventh seed Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4.

“I think today, I tried to do every shot aggressive, also in defence,” said Schwartzman. “I played against Kei three times before [at] Buenos Aires, Madrid and the US Open. Every single time was really tough, a really close match. I won set in every match, so I felt the confidence to beat him [today].

“I think I was a little bit passive, not really aggressive, thinking maybe Kei was just focused on the second set and not any more in the first. But then it was complicated. He had the chance to get back to 5-5… I think he played a little bit better in the second set, but was I still playing better than him.”

Schwartzman capitalised on Nishikori’s willingness to attack the net to take a 5-0 lead, breaking serve on his fourth break point chance in the second game, then to 15 in the fourth game. However, in hot, but windy conditions, Nishikori returned to his natural baseline game, posing a greater threat on his forehand and the short mid-court balls to win 18 of the next 22 points and leave Schwartzman sweating with a 5-4 advantage. Soon, Nishikori let his concentration slip with a forehand into the net on Schwartzman’s second set point, and the Argentine clinched the 48-minute opener.

Greater depth of groundstrokes from Schwartzman caught out Nishikori in the sixth game of the second set, when Nishikori’s mis-timed a forehand wide at 15/40. There was to be no respite from Schwartzman, who was moving well on the dry clay and powered his way to an 18th victory of 2019. Nishikori over-hit two forehands in the final game, and struck his second double fault to end the 87-minute match.

"He was playing good," said Nishikori. "That's for sure. Credit to him, that he was able to maintain his level first set and second set. Maybe he dropped his level from 5-0. If I could get the 5-4 game, maybe things could change. But he was playing aggressive, hitting good backhands and forehands, too. He came in very well. He was playing a little bit little more aggressive."

Nishikori broke a nine-final losing streak in January at the Brisbane International, where he captured his first ATP Tour title in 51 tournaments with victory over Daniil Medvedev. The 29-year-old is now 19-9 on the season.

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