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Jewish tennis whiz beats Nadal to advance to Italian Open finals

Diego Schwartzman, who also downed Israel-born Denis Shapovalov, faces Novak Djokovic in the finals Monday, with chance to break into top 10 internationally

Diego Schwartzman practicing in Buenos Aires, February 1, 2017. (Gabriel Rossi/LatinContent/Getty Images)
Diego Schwartzman practicing in Buenos Aires, February 1, 2017. (Gabriel Rossi/LatinContent/Getty Images)

JTA — Tenth time is the charm: After previously losing to Rafael Nadal nine straight times, Diego Schwartzman stunned him in straight sets on Saturday.

The Jewish Argentine tennis star won 6-2, 7-5 in just over two hours in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open, which takes place on clay — the surface that Nadal is best on.

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

Up next for Schwartzman was Denis Shapovalov, a Canadian tennis player born in Tel Aviv. Schwartzman won 6-5, 5-7, 7-6(4) on Sunday to advance to the final against Novak Djokovic on Monday.

Rafael Nadal of Spain congratulates Denis Shapovalov of Canada for his victory during day seven of the Rogers Cup at Uniprix Stadium on August 10, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Denis Shapovalov of Canada defeated Rafael Nadal of Spain 6-3, 4-6, 6-7. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images/AFP)

Shapovalov’s parents were born in Russia and emigrated to Israel at the collapse of the Soviet Union before moving to Canada. His mother, a former Russian national tennis team player, is Jewish, and his father is Russian Eastern Orthodox Christian. Shapovalov plays for Canada and does not identify as Jewish.

Schwartzman was born in a Jewish family in Buenos Aires and has written about his family’s Holocaust history.

If Schwartzman beats Djokovic, “two dreams,” as he calls them, will come true: winning a prestigious Masters 1000 level tournament, and entering the top 10 in the international rankings for the first time in his career. He’s currently ranked 15 in the world.

Yet just by playing in the finals, he’s already made history: He is the shortest finalist ever, listed at 5’7″ (he’s likely even shorter).

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