- The Roland-Garros men’s semi-finals take place this Friday.
- Diego Schwartzman, for his first at this level, faces Rafael Nadal.
- The Argentine, who is in one of the best moments of his career, is a solar character, very popular with the public and other players.
There are people like that, we know straight away that we won’t be able to hate them. It’s a shame, that’s where we are the best. But Diego Schwartzman is made like that. When we see the Argentinian, who challenges Rafael Nadal this Friday for his first Grand Slam semi-final, we want to take him by the shoulder to go and have a good asadao. And why not accompanied by a little Clos de Los Siete, while you’re there.
Apparently, we are not the only ones to feel this vibration. Wednesday evening, Novak Djokovic surprised us when, when answering a trivial question about Schwartzman, he launched into a fiery tirade when the usual triptych “yes-he-is-very-strong / he-plays- a-very-good-tennis-right-now / I-have-a-lot-of-respect-for-him ”would have done the trick. But no, this is what the world number 1 said:
“I spoke with him a bit in the locker room, I told him that I was very impressed with his victory against Thiem. He deserves more than other players because he works very hard. She is a very friendly person, really very nice. Everyone loves Diego! I am very happy for him, I am proud of him. He’s very good on clay, but over the years he’s also improved his game on hard. Now he’s a very complete player. I know his coach, Juan-Ignacio Chela well, he has a great work ethic. He has a good physiotherapist, too, which I really like. I love Diego and his whole team. “
Nice statement. The day before, Dominic Thiem had also gone there for his tribute after the epic match delivered by the two men in the quarterfinals. We had rarely seen the loser of a match of more than five hours to recover so quickly, especially at this stage of the competition. “I told him he deserved this victory. He will enter the top 10 for the first time in his career and it is a major achievement, praised the Austrian. I am thrilled for him. “
It must still be said that the two players are friends, and that helps to evacuate the frustration. But whether it’s Djoko or Thiem, we both feel genuinely happy that Schwartzman has reached the last four at the same time as the world top 10. Finally, at 28. The Argentinian is a special case, who has climbed the stairs without any real structure, like many South Americans, and especially who has been able to do with a shrimp physique that many thought crippling.
“He was handing everything over to the golgoths!” “
With his 1.70 m, he is indeed the smallest player in the top 100, by far. The Argentinian is an anomaly in modern tennis, where the standards are more in the 1.90m and 85kg. Obviously, in a tournament, we notice it. And we instinctively take affection. “I discovered it in 2014,” tells us Stéphane, a tennis fan from the Bordeaux region who once fought insomnia by watching secondary tournaments in South America. I immediately noticed his atypical, spectacular profile. He was small but he put everything back, with exceptional ground coverage. “
Two years more, he sees him playing for real, at the Challenger of the Villa Primrose. Love at first sight is confirmed. “What struck me was his lack of power. He was typing so softly that it was surprising, Stéphane remembers. But he had a hell of a game intelligence and he put everything in front of the golgoths! He was different from the others, I liked it. And then we identify with him, because we have the impression that he has nothing “special”. I didn’t think he would go so high. “
Diego Schwartzman in the last four weeks
– First top 5 win
– First Masters 1000 final
– First top 5 win at a Grand Slam
– First Grand Slam semifinal
– Top 10 debut pic.twitter.com/eWylRA2lg8
– José Morgado (@josemorgado) October 6, 2020
This sizable deficit, Schwartzman has heard about throughout his career, of course. What does he really think of it? Of all the statements one could find while browsing the Internet, the most complete is the one he gives in a (very) long letter published on the ATP site in January. In this document, reminiscent of “The Player’s Tribune” style, for connoisseurs, the Argentinean talks about everything: his family, his childhood, his physique, his difficulties, his motivations, etc.
Here is what he says, in very summary: “When I was 13 years old and a doctor told me that I will not exceed 1.70m, I was devastated. I wondered if I was going to continue playing. My parents didn’t let me sink. They told me that my height should not influence my dreams. I realized that whatever happened in my career was nothing compared to what they had gone through, let alone what my ancestors had to go through. There are bigger problems than being four inches shorter than everyone else. Either way, my height isn’t going to change, I’m not going to wake up one morning as tall as John Isner or Ivo Karlovic. There are reasons that I haven’t always done well, but they have nothing to do with my height. I understood over the years that everything depended on me, and not on the people around me. “
Great-grandparents emigrated to escape deportation
A bit of context, though. The difficulties he talks about are first of all the bankruptcy of his parents, who had a flourishing jewelry and clothing business and who lost everything with the end of imports decreed in the early 90s. No more money, and the obligation to rely on the D-system to find something to live on and allow little Diego to play tennis. As for his ancestors, they are his great-grandparents, who fled Eastern Europe (Poland on his mother’s side, Russia on his father’s side) and emigrated to Argentina after having miraculously escaped the deportation during the war.
In short, all this forged the player that is Diego Schwartzman today. And that doesn’t come down to its small size. He fought, found other weapons. All while keeping a humble and cheerful character. “He’s a fantastic personality,” Gustavo Kuerten praised Thursday at a press conference announcing a partnership between Roland and tournaments on clay, especially in South America.
Two years ago, Johan interviewed the Argentinian for his site Tennis Legend. At the end of his paper, he had left this note: “He immediately integrated us into the clan of tennis players. Even though we had never met him, he greeted us like we were training together every week. He’s like that Diego. “Contacted, he develops:” It went very well, he was super cool, very open-minded. There is something really cool about it. “
Diego Paulich, journalist at Diario Ole, the main Argentine sports daily, confirms. “It has to do with his way of being, he believes. He gives off good vibes, happy, friendly, humble, without being a star. He’s a person you feel good with and I can understand why he arouses everyone’s affection. “
“This is how I am with the people I love”
Federico Coria will not say the opposite. The little brother of Guillermo (finalist at Roland in 2004), average player born the same year as him, has always been able to count on the support of Schwartzman. “He’s starting to enter Grand Slam tournaments so I talk to him a lot,” said good Diego. I know him personally, I know his family and he knows everything about me. So it’s important for me to help him do things the best they can. This is how I am with the people I love. “
Words that don’t sit idly by. During confinement, the Argentine organized with his footballer friend Paulo Dybala a large video game tournament with celebrities (including Thiem) to raise money for the Argentinian Red Cross. “I wanted to do something to help, entertain the people who are at home and have a good time. There is nothing more beautiful than being able to help, ”he later explained.
It’s hard not to like these kinds of people. In addition, he never hesitates to tell a little anecdote, even a little embarrassing, on television. In 2017, guest of the show “Podemos Hablar”, he makes everyone laugh on set with a story that occurred a few weeks earlier in Roland.
We make it short for you, and by sparing you the a little fat innuendo. During his first lap, he spots a pretty girl in the stands. As he hoped, she ends up sending him a message via social networks and they agree to a date in the middle of the tournament. Her trainer learns it, gives her a soap and he will finally wait to be eliminated (in the 3rd round by Djokovic) to meet her.
Not very thin, but not very bad. Since then, the man has settled down. Another confidence, but from a few Argentinian colleagues this time: Schwartzman is rather a good dancer. Besides, if he wins the tournament, he promised a little demo. This man would therefore have no fault.