ROME (AFP) - Clay court king Rafael Nadal crashed out of the Italian Open on Saturday (Sept 19), falling to a straight sets defeat to Argentine Diego Schwartzman in a tournament the Spaniard had won nine times.
Eight-seeded Schwartzman meted out a punishing 6-2, 7-5 loss in Nadal's final warm-up before his bid for a 13th French Open, and record-equalling 20th Grand Slam in just over a week.
"It was not my night at all," said Nadal, who had won all nine previous meetings against 28-year-old Schwartzman, but could not match his rival's stunning game on the red clay of the Foro Italico.
"He played a great match, not me, when this happens you have to lose," continued the 34-year-old.
"It's not a moment for excuses. I've spent a long time without competing, I played two good matches."
The two-time defending champion was making his comeback after a six-month coronavirus-enforced break having skipped the US Open ahead of Roland Garros with its first round on Sept 27.
"Losing as many serves, you can't expect to win a match, it's something that I have to fix, I know how to do it," he warned.
"It's a special and unpredictable year, I'll probably go back home and let's see."
Schwartzman next plays Canadian 12th seed Denis Shapovalov for a place in the final.
"Today, I played my best tennis," said the Argentine.