Diego Schwartzman Could Become the Shortest Male Grand Slam Winner in The Open Era

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Diego Schwartzman

Tennis is a tall man’s game. At least, with the increasing numbers of big serving giants in the game, it certainly feels that way. Diego Schwartzman though, is upsetting the trend as he marches his way through the US Open draw.

With the usual suspects limping away from the US Open, the Argentinian has capitalised and now has a chance to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time. He faces Pablo Carreno-Busta, one year his senior but with little more experience.

Victory over Carreno-Busta would put Schwartzman just two wins away from a record-breaking Grand Slam title. Were he to win the US Open, he would become the shortest man in the open era to win a Grand Slam and the first under six foot since Gaston Gaudio in 2004.

Surprise US Open run for Diego Schwartzman

Prior to the 2017 US Open, Diego Schwartzman has never been beyond the third round of a Grand Slam. In fact, the only third round he has reached was at Roland Garros this year where he lost to Novak Djokovic in five sets. Little surprise that this major landmark came on clay, given that it is by far his best surface.

Now though, he is excelling on the court courts of Flushing Meadows. Schwartzman booked his spot in the quarter-finals with a superb four set victory over sixteenth seed Lucas Pouille. The Frenchman may not have come to New York in the strongest of form but the victory for Schwartzman, in the uncharted territory of a Grand Slam fourth round, was impressive nonetheless.
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More notable than his victory over Pouille though was his third round win over fifth seed Marin Cilic. On paper you would assume that the big-serving Croat could blast his way through Schwartzman’s defences. The Argentinian was marvellous however, and picked up one of the biggest scalps of the tournament in four sets. The victory is all the more impressive when you consider that Cilic battered Schwartzman 7-6, 6-1 on his favourite clay surface earlier in the season.

Quarter-Final date with Pablo Carreno-Busta

The reward for these victories is a quarter-final date with Pablo Carreno-Busta. Perhaps surprisingly, the pair have never met. More surprising is that their first meeting is for a spot in the US Open semi-final.

What will help both players is that they are, realistically, the most ignored quarter-final. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer dominate the top half of the draw. Meanwhile, Wimbledon semi-finalist Sam Querrey is the hot topic in the other quarter-final. Carreno-Busta and Schwartzman can go about their business quietly with the least media attention.
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Carreno-Busta will be a tough ask for Diego Schwartzman. The Spaniard is the type of player who comfortably defeats those ranked below him but often struggles against those ranked higher. He also has the experience advantage at this level, as limited as that is.

The 12th seed made it to his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the French Open this year, and will be looking to go one better in New York. While Carreno-Busta may have the experience, it is the Argentinian who has nothing to lose.

Pablo Carreno-Busta has the pressure of knowing he is in contention for the Race to London. Bizarrely, the withdrawal of Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka – as well as the uncertainly over Andy Murray – means that the Spaniard could find himself battling it out at the ATP Tour Finals. If you assume that Murray will play then Carreno-Busta currently sits in 9th. Victory would put him above Murray and in with a real chance. He will be aware of this added element and it could pile on the pressure.

Is Diego Schwartzman a legitimate US Open contender?

Diego Schwartzman is, apart from maybe Andrey Rublev, the player least expected to reach this stage. That, quite simply, means he has the least to lose because everything further than his current quarter-final spot is a bonus. That should mean that Schwartzman is able to play the type of combative and gritty tennis that has seen him win four matches already at Flushing Meadows.
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Should Diego Schwartzman progress past Pablo Carreno-Busta then he will fancy his chances in the semi-final. He will either play the big-serving Querrey or the equally-big-serving Kevin Anderson. Given that he has already eliminated Cilic he will be unfazed by the prospect of another big-server.

The way the draw has played out, Schwartzman could feasibly be a Grand Slam finalist. He faces potentially two winnable matches to reach the final and from there anything could happen. It’s been a pretty bizarre 2017 for men’s tennis. Who knows, maybe Diego Schwarzman winning a Grand Slam title would be the perfect icing on the cake.

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