Diego Schwartzman followed up his knockout of Rafael Nadal 24 hours earlier by reaching his first Masters 1000 final with a hard-fought 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(4) win over Denis Shapovalov on Sunday in Rome.
The Argentine will Monday play for the trophy in front of a limited number of 1,000 masked and distanced fans at the Foro Italico when he takes a 0-4 record into the final with Novak Djokovic.
The four-time tournament champion defeated Norway’s Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-3 in an earlier semi-final thriller.
Schwartzman admitted that the possibility of reaching the ranking Top 10 for the first time was in the back of his mind as he worked for three and a quarter hours to beat Canada’s Shapovalov.
If the South American can stop Djokovic on Monday, he will be ranked 10th; otherwise, Shapovalov will assume that spot in the table.
The third set was littered with six breaks of serve, with Shapovalov committing two consecutive errors to hand his opponent a match point.
Schwartzman didn’t disappoint as he immediately took victory as Shapovalov hit the net with a forehand.
“I was not playing my best tennis before coming here, I just wanted to get some matches and some confidence on clay,” the winner said.
“I’m very, very happy, today was a crazy match. We were not serving very well and there were many breaks in the third set.
“Maybe it was not the best to see, but at lest I have the win.”
Eighth seed Schwartzman said a Top 10 ranking would be a career dream. “I was fighting for that in this match I knew I had to win.
“I took my chances and in the end that’s why I won.”
Shapovalov went for broke throughout, ending with 49 winners and 58 unforced errors, the figures for Schwartzman were a more modest 25 and 27.
There were 29 break chances in the match with each man converting on six.