Rome Masters: Nadal loses, Djokovic loses cool again

Novak Djokovic was warned for breaking a racquet during his 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over German qualifier Dominik Koepfer

Novak Djokovic has been denied entry into Australia

Playing his first tournament in seven months, Rafael Nadal couldn’t quite continue his prowess on clay at the Rome Masters. The nine-time champion was stunned 6-2, 7-5 by Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinal on Saturday.

Before the match, Nadal had won all nine of their contests, including 22 of their 24 sets.

“For sure it’s my best match ever,” Schwartzman said after winning in two hours and four minutes. “I played a few times against the three big champions in tennis. I never beat them until today. I’m very happy.”

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The eighth seed hit 31 winners to only 17 unforced errors, while defending champion Nadal made 30 unforced errors, including 18 on his forehand wing.

“It was not my night at all. He played a great match I think and [I didn’t],” Nadal said. “When this happens, you have to lose. These things can happen. After such a long time without competing, I played two good matches, and now today I played a bad one against a good opponent.

“That’s how it is. I just want to congratulate Diego and I’m going to keep working.”

The 34-year-old Nadal had missed the US Open swing and was playing his first tournament since the tour resumed post the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Spaniard’s exit from the tournament has left the door open for Novak Djokovic to create a Masters record of his own. The top two players in the world are currently tied at a record 35 Masters 1000 titles each.

Djokovic breaks a racquet

World No 1 Djokovic advanced to the semi-finals in Rome with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over German qualifier Dominik Koepfer, but not without drama.

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When he was broken to love for 3-3 in the second set, he slammed the racquet on the ground. Djokovic received a warning for this, and had to replace his mangled racquet.

“It’s not the first nor the last racket that I’ll break in my career,” Djokovic said. “I’ve done it before and I’ll probably do it again. I don’t want to do it but when it comes, it happens.

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“That’s how, I guess, I release sometimes my anger and it’s definitely not the best message out there, especially for the young tennis players looking at me, and I don’t encourage that – definitely.”

The Serb, almost a fortnight ago, was kicked out of US Open for accidentally hitting a lineswoman in the throat with a ball. After losing serve for 5-6 in the opening set, Djokovic struck a ball in anger at the backboard without looking that happened to hit the lineswoman.

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Though Djokovic pleaded his case for with the Grand Slam supervisor and the Tournament Referee, he was forced to default his fourth round match at Flushing Meadows.

“I need to go back within and work on my disappointment and turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being,” the 33-year-old had said coming into the Rome Masters.

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During the match, the chair umpire also made an amusing error, calling, ‘Game Federer!’ when Djokovic broke Koepfer for 2-1 in the deciding set.

Two matches away from getting a record 36th Masters title, the Serb will take on Casper Ruud in the semi-finals on Sunday.