Roland-Garros: In the shadows, Schwartzman intends to create a surprise

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He would go almost unnoticed. Diego Schwartzman appears in the quarterfinals of this Roland-Garros without losing a single set. Better, he gave up on his way only 30 small games, only 7 more than the master of the places Rafael Nadal. After his first Masters 1000 final in Rome, the Argentine was logically one of the outsiders. The least we can say is that it lived up to expectations. And yet, he almost went through the tournament quietly.

Does it owe it to a lack of charisma? Perhaps. Schwartzman isn’t exactly drawn to the spotlight, and it’s not insulting him to find that he has neither the aura nor the consistency in the results of the main stars of the circuit. Nevertheless, the little Argentinian has gradually made his hole: thanks to this spotless course in Paris, he will play the 4th quarter-final of his career in the Grand Slam – his best result – after the US Open 2017 and 2019, as well as the 2018 Roland-Garros edition. Undeniably, we can no longer speak of surprise concerning him.

Dominic is at the top of his career, but I already beat him

So why this relative anonymity? Above all, it seems, because all the “spotlights” are precisely on the three-headed hydra Nadal-Djokovic-Thiem, to whom the title seems promised since the start of this Roland-Garros. But “Peque”, as he is nicknamed because of his modest height (1.70 meter according to the site), is going through perhaps the most prosperous period of his career: he even flirts with the top 10 since his Roman final (14th currently). “You know, you never know where the ceiling is going to be, where you’re going to be, whether you’re going to be in the quarterfinals, in a big tournament. Achieving this type of result is a good thing that gives me a lot of self-confidence, which shows me that I can improve myself“, he points out.

So, can this extra confidence help Schwartzman shake up the coconut palm? What is certain is that the Argentine represents a real threat to his friend Dominic Thiem whom he will challenge to reach the last four of a Major for the first time. “Dominic is at the peak of his career after the US Open. He knows how to play here, since for three years, he has been at least in the semi-finals each time (he is even a double finalist outgoing, Editor’s note). He knows how to play on the center court. I have to play perfectly if I want to have chances, and I have to take chances. I have already beaten him. And this is important“, he slips very aptly.

Because if Thiem has won 6 of their 8 duels and the last three to date, Schwartzman has already dropped the world number 3, and rather recently since his last victory dates back to last season, already on clay, in front of his audience at Buenos Aires (2-6, 6-4, 7-6). The two acolytes, who like to share a few dinners and other PlayStation games on occasion, have never crossed swords in Grand Slam. Will the Argentine be able to hold a very high intensity in the best of five sets? If there’s no way to say for sure, the latest signs are pretty encouraging for him.

Diego Schwartzman à Roland-Garros en 2020

Credit: Getty Images

Play it like Gaston

In the heavy and wet conditions of this fortnight, his ground coverage and his ability to stick to the ball permanently could well prove to be decisive. Especially since Schwartzman had, before getting down to the task himself, the perfect example to follow, coming from another devilishly eye-catching small format. “I saw the fifth set, the last 4 or 5 games. It was an incredible game. Hugo Gaston played fantastic. Considering the way I play, the last two weeks I have done on clay shows that I have chances. Gaston won the third and fourth set against Dominic, and it worked for him. I’ll try to do the same, and keep it behind the bottom line“, he emphasizes.

Schwartzman does not have the same touch as the Frenchman, but quite a bit of timing for him. There is perhaps even more to play for “Peque” if he manages to lengthen the exchanges. The observation may seem paradoxical in the face of one of the best athletes on the circuit, Dominic Thiem. But the Austrian frequently seemed on the verge of breaking up physically in his round of 16. And curiously, the person did not hide his doubts on this subject at a press conference. “In my opinion, it’s all going to be about recovery. The last few weeks have been tough. I am not 100%. I have to recover as best I can. If I get there, it will be a fun game. If I don’t succeed, he’s the one who will have a good game on Tuesday“, confided the seed number 3.

One thing is certain: Schwartzman will approach the fresh part like a roach. More diesel on the resumption on hard in August, he did not play a full fortnight at the US Open. “My reboot on the court was not the best. I didn’t feel ready to play in five sets. It was a tough game (his defeat in the 1st round in Flushing against Cameron Norrie, Editor’s note), physically, for me. I ended up with cramps. I had pain in my left hand and another two weeks later. I said to myself: ‘There is tennis, we can play, I have to find a way to continue training, to do everything in a joyful way, in happiness’. I believe this is the key in my life to keep holding my head up“, he still considers.

By beating Nadal, he broke a first glass ceiling

This mental freshness, in an otherwise heavy context, undoubtedly enabled him to take a step forward. In Rome, he managed to break a glass ceiling by dominating Rafael Nadal for the first time in 10 confrontations, and this with the manner (6-2, 7-5). The performance is all the more interesting as it took place in a night session, in the cool, in conditions which are similar to those of Roland. Admitting that he passes the obstacle Thiem, logic would like that, to create a huge sensation in this 2020 edition, he goes on against the “Manacor Bull” then the “Djoker” in the semi-finals and in the final.

Impossible mission ? The statistics are in any case obviously against Schwartzman. Against the “Big 3”, he has not won a single Grand Slam match in 8 attempts. But at Roland Garros, the Argentinian has already caused some problems for the Djokovic-Nadal duo: the Serbian got away in straight sets in 2017, and the following year, the Spaniard was led by a set and d ‘a station wagon before a life-saving interruption by… rain. Such a scenario will not be able to happen again this year, roof over the Chatrier obliges, and Schwartzman may have the secret hope of taking advantage of it. But all in good time: on Tuesday it will already be a question of exceeding another limit, that of the quarter-finals in Major.

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