WIMBLEDON: The first six months of 2023 have been brutal for former top 10 player Diego Schwartzman on the Tour.
Three years on from reaching the semi-finals of the French Open and peaking at a high of No.8 in the world, the Argentine now finds himself facing unwelcome challenges. In his first 16 tournaments played this year, Schwartzman failed to win back-to-back matches at all of them. During this turbulent period, he went from being a top 20 player to one ranked outside of the top 100.
“They have been very difficult months,” Schwartzman tells Ubitennis. “I was not playing my best and losing too many matches against opponents who I used to regularly beat in my career.”
“It was difficult.. new goals, new rankings, new age and a new challenge. But now I’m improving and I’m very happy.”
More recently things have been improving for the 30-year-old who is affectionately known as ‘El Peque’ (the little one) by his fans. A reference to the height of the tennis player who is only five foot and seven inches tall. He reached the third round of the French Open earlier this year (losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas) and the second round of Queen’s (losing to Alex de Minaur).
Although it is his latest win in the first round of Wimbledon that has put a smile back on his face. Taking on world No.41 Miomir Kecmanović, Schwartzman stormed to a 6-0, 6-3, 6-4, victory. Hitting 35 winners past the Serbian and saving six out of the eight break points he faced.
“I think it was my best match of the whole year. I felt great on the court.” He stated afterward.
“I have felt great against him a few times before today so I think that helped a little bit to have more confidence coming into the match.”
“It is always difficult to move and be ready against a guy like Kecmanovic. It’s always difficult to keep to the point. He likes to be aggressive and move the ball. I think I did great with my movements.”
A new stage of his career
So how has Schwartzman managed to turn his form around? Unfortunately, there was no magic formula that he or his team conjured up. Instead, he had to do it the hard way.
“You have to always learn about the situation. How you feel on and off the court,” he explains. “It was a different situation for me after many years of being very regular at winning a lot of matches. It took me a while but I have learned from it.”
This mature perspective comes as no surprise. Schwartzman has spent 12 years on the ATP Tour so far with his debut dating back to the qualifying rounds of the 2011 Buenos Aires Open. He has won four ATP trophies and earned more than $13.4M in prize money. On top of that, he has reached the quarter-finals or better at five Grand Slam events and defeated Rafael Nadal on clay at the Italian Open.
As for what the future has in store, Schwartzman has a completely different outlook on life as a player on the Tour.
“I’m very far (from my best). Now I have a different goal in my career. It’s to feel well, and play these kinds of matches when I have a chance to try to be the best.” He frankly admits.
“Talking about my ranking, I have reached so many goals so I am no longer thinking about it.”
His position is currently 98th in the world.
Saudi Arabia and football
Besides his career, he also spoke about the current topics of the sport. One of the most prominent involves Saudi Arabia and their potential investment in tennis via its sovereign wealth fund. ATP CEO Andrea Gaudenzi said he has held ‘positive’ talks with representatives in recent weeks. Meanwhile, WTA Chief Steve Simon visited the country earlier this year.
“It is always well received when you have different people come into tennis. I think it’s great if they want to come. This is helping many people in low or big situations. I hope they can come,” Schwartzman commented.
“I think if we have new people and new tournaments. It’s a different era.” He added.
The tennis player is fully aware of the topic through his beloved football. Saudi Arabia’s investment fund was instrumental in the £300M takeover of Newcastle United and they are currently spending millions in recurring European players for their league.
Schwartzman is named after footballing great Diego Maradona and attended the World Cup last year where his home country triumphed under the guidance of Lionel Messi.
“It is a very good situation after the World Cup,” he said of Football back home. “Everyone is loving football again and has a good relationship with the players from the national team. I’m a big fan of football so it’s great.”
Back to tennis and Schwartzman is scheduled to return to action at Wimbledon on Wednesday where he will take on Jannik Sinner. It will be a stern challenge for somebody who hasn’t beaten a top-10 player since April 2022.
“Sinner is a great player. He had a very good match. I hope to do well but let’s see if I have any chance.” He concluded.
Regardless of the outcome of his next clash, Schwartzman is entering a new stage of his career. He may no longer be at the top of the sport but he has chosen to embrace it rather than run away from that reality. That has to be commended.
Team World One Win Away From Victory in Laver Cup
Team World take a huge 10-2 lead over Team Europe heading into the final day
After losing the first four editions of the Laver Cup, Team World look set to win the event for a second time as the event reaches its conclusion tomorrow.
Team World Captain John McEnroe was thrilled with the day’s results but warned against complacency: “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. The job’s not done but we’re pretty close.”
American duo Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe both earned straight sets wins over Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz, while Felix Auger-Aliassime and Ben Shelton beat Hurkacz and Gael Monfils.
“I want to play well for the guys,” said Tiafoe after his singles victory. “I played really well tonight. Just being in a team environment is so foreign to us as tennis players, it’s such an individual sport.”
After winning his third singles match in three appearances at the Laver Cup, Fritz was also motivated to do well:
“Yesterday, all the guys played really well. I felt that and wanted to come out on court and show what I can do. That definitely motivated me. Any type of team environment, I feel like it always elevates my game. I feel like my record in team events is really strong because I have a team cheering for me. I get pumped up. I’m excited to play for them. It just adds more pressure and fire to it. I think I play better in those situations.”
The doubles was a typically dynamic and feisty affair, and after the match Shelton was full of praise for his partner:
“It’s amazing, when you play with a guy who serves and returns like Felix, is as athletic as him, and goes back for the overhead as strong as him, it’s a fun time,” said Shelton. “We call him ‘Laver Cup Felix’ because he turns into something special this week, just glad I got to share the court with him at least once.”
Auger-Aliassime returned the compliments: “The best comes out of me when I’m playing not only for myself but for team-mates. Ben carried me through the end of that match, it was tough for me to get it done.”
Casper Ruud, meanwhile, beat Tommy Paul for Europe’s only points so far.
Matches on the final day are worth three points each – meaning that Team Europe would have to win all four remaining matches to prevent Team World from winning the trophy.
T. Fritz def A. Rublev 6-2, 7-6
F. Tiafoe def H. Hurkacz 7-5, 6-3
F. Auger-Aliassime & B. Shelton def H.Hurkacz & G. Monfils 7-5, 6-4
C. Ruud def T. Paul 7-6, 6-2
ATP RANKINGS UPDATE: Novak Djokovic, No.1 once more
After the US Open the Serbian champion reclaims top spot. Alexander Zverev is back in the Top 10
By Roberto Ferri
“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”
Rudy Tomjanovich coined this maxim just after his Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1995. He was paying homage to Akeem Holajuwon. It perfectly suits the heart of Daniil Medvedev, who proved 99% of tennis fans in the world to be wrong, convinced as they were that he would lose the semifinal to former No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.
But his dream to win a second US Open, after his triumph in 2021, was shattered by another champion, whose heart and class is even greater: that’s Novak Djokovic, who affixes his seal on his return to No.1, equalling Margaret Court Smith’s record of 24 majors.
Djokovic dethroning Alcaraz is not the only change in the top 20: Sascha Zverev is back in the top 10 after almost one year and Ben Shelton, great protagonist of the Us Open, debuts in the top 20 best players in the world.
A few comments:
Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrei Rublev and Alexander Zverev gain 2 positions.
Ben Shelton devours 28 positions.
Sinner, Tiafoe, Norrie and Dimitrov lose one.
Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov, runner up and semi-finalist respectively at the 2022 US Open, drop 4 positions.
One step forward for Fritz, de Minaur, Paul, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz.
ATP NITTO FINALS
From 12 to 19 November the 8 best players of the ranking based on the points earned in the ongoing solar season will be playing the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
Will Novak Djokovic succeed in winning a second straight title? He appears to be heading in the right direction.
Thanks to his triumph at the US Open the Serbian overtakes Alcaraz also in the Race to Turin.
Jannik Sinner holds fourth spot while Andrei Rublev overtakes Stefanos Tsitsipas and is now fifth.
The eighth position is occupied by Alexander Zverev.
Last year runner up, Casper Ruud is currently 10th. This means he would feature in Turin as a reserve.
ATP NEXT GENERATION FINALS
The Next Gen Finals, dedicated to the best under 21s, (8 effectives and 2 reserves) of the season will take place this year in Gedda, Saudi Arabia.
The 2022 winner, Brandon Nakashima, will not be defending his title, since he was born in 2001.
Taking for granted that Alcaraz and, most likely Rune, will be playing the ATP Finals, we have included in the chart the 12 current top under 21s.
Besides Ben Shelton, other 11 players have achieved their career highest this week.
We tribute a double applause to the four players who are making their debut in the top 100.
The 25-year-old Croatian Borna Gojo, 22-year-old Australian Rinky Hijkata and the Swiss next gen Dominic Stricker all reap the reward for their brilliant runs at the US Open. Seyboth Wild, the Brazilian who stunned Medvedev in the first round of Roland Garros leaps to No.76 after winning the Challenger in Como last week.
Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
COMMENT: Novak Djokovic Proves His Greatness At US Open
Love him, or hate him. But respect him.
No tennis player has ever been better than Novak Djokovic.
Even Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have to take their hats off to Novak, and admire him.
Now that Rafa and Roger have left Djokovic on his own stage at least for now, tennis fans love Novak.
DJOKOVIC WENT ONE STEP FURTHER
Djokovic’s performance on Sunday evening in the U.S. Open final was simply amazing. Daniil Medvedev also played his heart out, but Djokovic went one step further. He was sensational.
It was a thrill-a-minute three-set match. It lasted well into the night after starting at mid-afternoon. The second set alone lasted 104 minutes.
Djokovic was the winner, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, but New York still loves 2021 champion Medvedev.
A FOURTH AND 24TH TITLE, AND A 24 TRIBUTE
At 36, the oldest U.S. Open men’s champion ever, Djokovic obviously has a special place in his heart for the number four. It’s the number of times he has won this tournament and the 24th time he has won a Grand Slam title.
The number 24 also was displayed prominently on the white jacket. Novak, his team members and family wore for the victory celebration as a tribute to the No. 24 jersey of deceased friend Kobe Bryant.
Djokovic lost his footing at least three times in the tight second set, stumbling to the surface once, apparently due to the length of the rallies.
Djokovic could look like he was almost completely wiped out of it physically one minute, and then play like Superman the next minute.
THREE POINTS MAY HAVE BEEN DECISIVE
Both men played great tennis, especially in the thrill-a-second second set in which Medvedev gained one set point in the 12th game before Djokovic recovered to force a tiebreaker.
Medvedev appeared to be in charge after out-playing Novak to win one of his drop shots to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. The match may have been decided on the next three points, all won by Djokovic on errors by the 6-6 Russian.
The big question now is what happens next January in the Australian Open. Right now, Djokovic probably wants to play . . . and win what has been his favorite tournament as far as success. But things can change quickly for players in their mid-30s. Just ask Roger or Rafa.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
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