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Diego Schwartzman’s stellar 2020 season continued on Saturday at the bett1HULKS Championship, as the Argentine defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 to reach his third final of 2020.

Schwartzman, who is competing as a Top 10 player for the first time this week, converted four of five break points en route to a two-hour, 31-minute win. The Cordoba and Rome runner-up improved to 23-10 this year with his third victory from five ATP Tour semi-finals in 2020.

“Felix is a great player. Maybe at the beginning he was [making] a few mistakes. I took the chance to break in the first set and in the second set I was playing solid, then he started to play so aggressive [with] many winners… It was really tough at the end,” said Schwartzman in an on-court interview.

The 28-year-old increased his chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time with his semi-final win against Auger-Aliassime. Just two singles berths in the eight-man field remain up for grabs. World No. 8 Andrey Rublev and No. 9 Schwartzman are the leading contenders to grab those spots (No. 4 Roger Federer is rehabbing from knee surgery and will not play).

Schwartzman entered this week 105 points ahead of 10th-placed Matteo Berrettini, but in reality he’s 305 points clear in the FedEx ATP Battle For London because the Italian will drop 200 points earned at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals from his current total on 9 November. The FedEx ATP Rankings run at the completion of all tournaments in the week of 9 November will be used for Nitto ATP Finals singles qualification.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev have already confirmed their spots in the tournament, which will take place from 15-22 November at The O2 in London. Schwartzman will need to get past one of those men on Sunday if he is to lift his first ATP Tour trophy of the season. Zverev reached his second final in as many weeks in Cologne with a 7-6(3), 6-3 victory against Jannik Sinner.

Schwartzman enters the final with a 2-1 ATP Head2Head advantage against Zverev. In the pair’s most recent meeting, Schwartzman beat the German in four sets to reach the 2019 US Open quarter-finals.

”He is the undefeated man [in Cologne] so far,” said Schwartzman. “Maybe tomorrow is the first match he is going to lose. I don’t know. He is a great player. He always likes to play in Germany. He has a lot of titles here in his country, so it is going to be very tough. He has confidence and he is playing very good tennis, so I have to rest and be ready for tomorrow.”

Auger-Aliassime was attempting to reach his fourth indoor final of the year (0-3). The #NextGenATP Canadian, who finished as runner-up in Cologne last week, owns a Tour-leading 14 indoor victories this season (14-5).

The Buenos Aires native made the perfect start, as he extended rallies to break in the first game of the match. Schwartzman served with confidence throughout the first set, as he claimed three love service holds. The 5’7” right-hander took a one-set lead with consecutive forehand winners.

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Schwartzman pounced early in the second set, as Auger-Aliassime committed multiple errors at 1-1. The Argentine converted his second break point with a series of strong forehands to increase his advantage. As Schwartzman served for the match at 5-4, Auger-Aliassime took the initiative and used his forehand to wins three straight games and force a decider.

Schwartzman covered the court well to force Auger-Aliassime into errors early in the third set. The Roland Garros semi-finalist was tested as he attempted to serve out the match at 5-4, but he held his nerve to clinch victory with a strong forehand down the line.


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