Fixture: Novak Djokovic vs Diego Schwartzman
Date: 21 September 2020
Tournament: Italian Open 2020
Venue: Rome, Italy
Category: ATP Masters 1000
Surface: Red clay
Prize money: €3,465,045
Match timing: Not before 5 pm CEST, 8.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - ESPN / Tennis Channel | India - Sony Six
Novak Djokovic vs Diego Schwartzman preview
Novak Djokovic will look to win a record-breaking 36th Masters 1000 title when he faces Diego Schwartzman in the final of the Rome Masters on Monday.
The World No. 1 came into Rome on the back of a tumultuous six months. First, Djokovic's controversial Adria Tour led to himself and three other players testing positive for COVID-19. Then the Serb resigned as ATP Player Council president to form a separate players' union known as PTPA - a move that has garnered criticism from Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
At the US Open too, Djokovic grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons. He was defaulted from his fourth round match in bizarre circumstances, after accidentally hitting a lineswoman with a ball.
But the events off the court have had no effect on Novak Djokovic's form on the court; the US Open disqualification is still the only match the Serb has 'lost' all year. The final in Rome is now his fifth final of the year, and he has won all four of the previous ones.
Djokovic's fabled ability to raise his level at the right moments has been on full display this tournament. He has dispatched all of his opponents so far despite facing several tough challenges - most notably from Dominik Koepfer and Casper Ruud.
Djokovic's opponent on Monday, Argentina's Diego Schwartzman, came into the tournament desperately looking for some form. But he managed to somehow produce 'the best tennis of his life' to defeat nine-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals.
Schwartzman then played out a marathon semifinal against Denis Shapovalov on Sunday that lasted over three hours. The Argentine edged a tight first set, but he lost the second and then had to break back in the third while Shapovalov was serving for the match.
Schwartzman eventually prevailed in a deciding set tiebreak, winning 6-4 5-7 7-6.
Novak Djokovic vs Diego Schwartzman head-to-head
The final of the Rome Masters is the fifth meeting between the two players. Novak Djokovic currently leads the head-to-head 4-0 over Diego Schwartzman.
The pair have met each other on several big occasions, but on clay the Serb has not been as comfortable as he would have liked. Djokovic prevailed in three tough sets in the Rome Masters semifinal last year, and was taken to five sets by Schwartzman in a difficult third round match at Roland Garros 2017 before winning 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.
Novak Djokovic vs Diego Schwartzman prediction
Given his explosive form this year, it is very difficult to see anything but a Novak Djokovic win on Monday. However, Diego Schwartzman produced arguably the best tennis of the tournament in the matches against Nadal and Shapovalov.
The Argentine's incredible sense of timing and terrific return game have made him a formidable opponent all week. He has also shown his staying power in a majority of the long rallies, turning defense into offense in the blink of an eye.
That said, Schwartzman comes into the match on the back of a slew of draining encounters in the previous rounds. Moreover, while Djokovic has not been at his very best in Rome so far, he has been supremely effective off the backhand wing and has used his excellent movement to suffocate his opponents.
The Serb also possesses a serve big enough to get him out of difficult spots, and a return sharp enough to punish Schwartzman's relatively weaker serve. In the final analysis, that might be too tough a combination for the Argentine to overcome.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic to win in straight sets.