Diego On Doorstep Of Top 10
“If I put the target now, it's try to keep improving and try to be close to the Top 10,” admitted Schwartzman, after his quarter-final defeat to Rafael Nadal on Thursday. “When I started the year, it was not a goal for me. Now maybe, yes.”
The 5’7” Argentine will climb to a career-best No. 11 on Monday, a remarkable rise up the ATP Rankings from No. 41 at Roland Garros last year. In 2016, Schwartzman was No. 63.
Should Schwartzman break into the elite group, joining No. 6-ranked Juan Martin del Potro, it would mark the first time that two Argentines rank in the Top 10 since the week of 29 October 2012 (Del Potro, Juan Monaco).
Schwartzman did not win a match during last year’s grass-court swing, putting him in good position to gain ATP Rankings points in an effort to become the first player since Harold Solomon (5’6”), in the week of 27 July 1981, to stand 5’7” or shorter and place in the Top 10.
The 25-year-old Schwartzman sent shockwaves through Roland Garros on Wednesday, when the No. 11 seed took the opening set against Nadal, snapping the World No. 1’s streak of 37 consecutive sets won at the clay-court major championship — an accomplishment that motivates him to push forward.
“I have never entered a court just to enjoy the match. I was always wanting to win,” said Schwartzman. “The first matches I played against the Top 5 players, I said it's always a match I can win. And so it's a learning phase, and I know that I will have more and more chances of winning when I play my matches. I know that the game and the ranking says that I'm in a position where I'm capable of winning against them, and so I have to win the next time I play against him.”
On Thursday though, there was not much that Schwartzman could do against the 10-time Roland Garros champion. Nadal was at his aggressive best, controlling the baseline upon the match’s resumption after rain halted play late in the second set Wednesday, to sweep the next three sets.
Reflecting on the loss, Schwartzman said, “It's not good. It's not good. I think is the worst part of the tennis, playing against Rafa here when he's playing his best tennis. Many, many points today I was playing really good, aggressive. He was running all the time, and then he came back [in] the point and finished with a winner… it’s not [a] good part of tennis, to play against Rafa in his best tennis.”
The Argentine, who according to Infosys ATP Scores & Stats won the highest rate of return games on the ATP World Tour in 2017, struck an impressive 20 winners in the first set. But Nadal adjusted accordingly, playing more aggressively, especially changing directions to keep Schwartzman on the defensive.
“He has the best mindset of history,” said Schwartzman. “He's one of the best players in history. He doesn't know what frustration is. And despite losing the first set, the first 40 minutes, he came back as if nothing had happened before. Sometimes these are talents that very few players have in the world.
“I was playing fantastically. I was winning his serve. He was not in confidence, and I was able to attack and to dominate most of the points. I had a lot of winners. But I think that the match was totally different today because everything was in his favour.”