EXCLUSIVE: Diego Schwartzman On Adversity, New Goals And Saudi Arabia - UBITENNIS
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EXCLUSIVE: Diego Schwartzman On Adversity, New Goals And Saudi Arabia

Following his first round win at Wimbledon, the former world No.8 spoke openly to Ubitennis after his lacklustre season and shift in career objectives. He also added his view on the Saudi Arabia debate.



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. 


Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence



Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils



Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis



Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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