Diego Schwartzman is one of the shortest tennis players on the ATP Tour. Standing at 5’7″, he is often unfairly dismissed by commentators and fans alike, many of whom consider him to be too short to be considered a top player.
Indeed, that was my initial impression of Schwartzman the first time I watched him play, in the first round of Wimbledon four years ago on No.2 court against Nick Krygios. The match didn’t last long as the Australian comfortably won in straight sets.
Flash forward four years and Schwartzman is in his third Grand Slam quarterfinal, preparing to face Rafael Nadal in one of the biggest matches of his career. Many continue to underestimate the skill of the Argentine and are surprised that he has made it this far. I am not one of those people.
In his fourth round win against Alexander Zverev, the Argentine produced a brilliant display of defensive tennis from the baseline, constantly retrieving balls and absorbing the German’s hard-hitting groundstrokes as well as showing everyone that he is able to provide his own power from the back of the court.
The Argentine has had an excellent career so far and has maximized every ounce of potential from his game. The biggest title of his career so far came in 2018 at the ATP 500 event in Rio. Other noticeable performances include his 2018 Roland Garros quarterfinal, where he was a set and a break up against the “King of Clay” before rain stopped play and allowed Nadal to regather his thoughts and win the match in four sets. He was the only player to take a set off Nadal in that tournament.
2019 has been a relatively mixed bag for Schwartzman. High points include winning the title in Los Cabos and having his best grass court season to date. He reached the quarterfinals of Queens, a run that included a straight sets victory of Marin Cilic. However, the clay court season proved somewhat underwhelming. He suffered second-round defeats in Monte Carlo, Madrid, and Roland Garros, with his only real success being reaching the semifinals in Rome, losing in three sets to Novak Djokovic.
Despite being the strong underdog heading into his quarterfinal with Nadal, the Argentine certainly has the ability to push the Spaniard. Since the last time we looked at him, in 2017, his game has vastly improved. Coach Juan Ignacio Chela has been a perfect fit for Schwartzman. But is he a genuine contender against Nadal? Well on paper, the matchup isn’t ideal. Schwartzman hasn’t beaten the Spaniard, and the best he has been able to do is to win one set in a match. However, the key to the match for me is Schwartzman’s return. One of the best aspects of his game, the Argentine has the ability to consistently return big serves. Nadal’s serve is consistent, but not the biggest, so if he returns well up the middle of the court to get into the rally, he has a chance of getting a look in on Nadal’s service games.
The tennis media consistently like to hype up the likes of Kyrgios and the next generation of tennis players. It would be nice to see more of the tennis community show appreciation for other players. Diego Schwartzman doesn’t play tennis as flashy as Kyrgios, but his technique and style of play deserves just as much appreciation and is just as effective. After all, Schwartzman has now made more Grand Slam quarterfinals than the Aussie, yet he doesn’t get anywhere near the same amount of attention.
Whatever happens against Nadal, Diego Schwartzman has shown yet again to the tennis world that he is a force to be reckoned with–and that you don’t have to be tall to have great success in tennis.