Sunday, September 20, 2020

Diego digs deep to reach first Masters 1000 final

   It would have been easy for Diego Schwartzman to suffer a letdown after shocking Rafael Nadal on Saturday.
   Instead, the 5-foot-7 (1.70-meter), 141-pound (64-kilogram) Argentine gutted out a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (4) victory over Denis Shapovalov of Canada today in the semifinals of the Italian Open in Rome.
   Shapovalov, seeded 12th, served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, which lasted 1 hour, 27 minutes. Schwartzman, seeded eighth, ultimately prevailed in 3 hours, 15 minutes to reach his first Masters 1000 (the highest level besides the Grand Slams) final. 
   Schwartzman, ranked 15th, is scheduled to face top-ranked Novak Djokovic on Monday not before 8 a.m. PDT (Tennis Channel). If the 28-year-old Schwartzman wins, he will crack the top 10 for the first time. If he loses, the 14th-ranked Shapovalov, 21, will do the same.
   "I have two dreams tomorrow," Schwartzman said on "One is winning a tournament like this, and the second one is (being in the) top 10. I need to play more than my 100 percent. I don't want to say (it will be) impossible, because it's not. I know I can beat him, but it's going to be very difficult."
   Djokovic, who won the last of his four Italian Open titles in 2015, beat unseeded Casper Ruud, a semifinalist in the $100,000 Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger in 2018 at 19, 7-5, 6-3 to improve to 30-1 this year. 
   Djokovic, 33, advanced to his 10th Italian Open final. He is 4-0 against Schwartzman, including a 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-3 win in the Rome semifinals last year. 
   Top-seeded Simona Halep is set to play second seed and defending champion Karolina Pliskova in the women's final at 5:30 a.m. PDT in a showdown of 28-year-olds and former world No. 1s.
   Halep, the Rome runner-up in 2017 and 2018, outlasted ninth-seeded Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 for her 13th consecutive victory and 18th in her last 19 matches. Both players have been ranked No. 1 and won two Grand Slam singles titles, coming at the French Open and Wimbledon.
   Pliskova, the runner-up in the 2015 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, outplayed 12th-seeded Marketa Vondrousova, a finalist in last year's French Open at 19, 6-2, 6-4 in an all-Czech affair. Vondrousova, a left-hander, had left-wrist surgery last summer and sat out for the rest of the year. 
   The second-ranked Halep, who will turn 29 on Sunday, is 7-4 against Pliskova, ranked fourth, but Pliskova has won three of the last four encounters. They have split two clay-court matches, including Halep's 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win in the semifinals of the 2017 French Open.   
   In today's men's doubles final, fourth-seeded Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina edged unseeded Frenchmen Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin 6-4, 5-7 [10-8] for their third title of the coronavirus-shortened season.
   Granollers, the singles runner-up in the $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger in 2018, won his second Italian Open title in his fourth Rome final. He took the 2012 crown with compatriot Marc Lopez.
   Top-seeded Hsieh Su-Wei of Chinese Taipei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic claimed the women's doubles title, dominating unseeded Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany and Raluca Olaru of Romania 6-2, 6-2. Hsieh and Strycova improved to 21-1 this year with four titles.

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