For the majority of people on the planet, 2020 was not a year to celebrate accomplishments. Well, count Diego Schwartzman among the minority then, because he made major strides up the men’s tennis ladder during the 2020 season.
Schwartzman entered the 2021 season situated among the top 10 in the ATP rankings for the first time in his career. Last year saw him post his first career win over Rafael Nadal and make his initial appearance among the final eight of the Nitto ATP Finals. The 28-year-old from Buenos Aires appears poised to take the next step into the elite ranks of tennis players and put his name alongside Guillermo Vilas, Gabriela Sabitini, and Juan Martin Del Potro, the all-time greats of Argentinian tennis.
He’s currently ranked No. 9 in the world among men’s singles players, and yet in the Australian Open odds at Betway, it’s still possible to access 101.00 odds on Schwartzman’s chances of winning the title in Melbourne. Schwartzman is being offered at the same price as World No. 11 Gael Monfils and 14th-ranked David Goffin.
A Year of Accomplishments
If there was to be a slogan attached to Schwartzman’s 2020 campaign, the most appropriate tag would be a year of firsts.
During the year, he made his inaugural appearance in an ATP Masters 1000 Final. Schwartzman also reached the semi-finals of the French Open, the furthest he’s ever gone in a Grand Slam event. He advanced to the semis via an epic five-hour quarter-final triumph over world No. 3 Dominic Thiem, taking the match 7-6(1), 5-7 6-7(6), 7-6(5), 6-2.
Schwartzman led the entire ATP Tour in return games won during the year. He clicked at a 34.9 percent rate. Nadal was second overall in this category at 34.4 percent.
Playing 40 matches during 2020, Schwartzman broke serve 175 times. That works out to an average of greater than four service breaks per match (4.375). For his career, he shows a 31.8 percent win rate in return games.
Without a doubt, Schwartzman’s signature performance of 2020 was his victory over world No. 2 Nadal in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. Schwartzman won the match 6-2, 7-5. That the victory came in straight sets on clay, a surface upon which Nadal rules the tennis world, made the accomplishment all the more remarkable. Nadal has won this tournament nine times during his career.
It was their 10th time clashing, and the first occasion upon which Schwartzman left the court a winner. During the match, he recorded five service breaks and won 54 percent of the return points. Schwartzman hit 31 winners and capitalized on 17 unforced Nadal errors.
Through their first nine meetings, Nadal captured 22 of 24 sets from Schwartzman. The Argentine won as many sets in defeating the Spanish legend as Schwartzman was able to claim through the entirety of their first nine matches.
“I broke a barrier when I beat Rafa,” Schwartzman told tennisworldusa.org. “I’m going to be able to retire, saying that I achieved that.
“My next goal is to score wins over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic and lift more titles.”
How High Can He Go?
Among Argentina’s tennis legends, Sabatini climbed as high as No. 3 in the world on the WTA charts. In the men’s rankings, Guillermo Coria, David Nalbandian, and del Potro have all reached No. 3 in the world.
The closest an Argentine has come to earning the No. 1 ranking in the word was when Vilas reached No. 2 in the ATP in 1975. Vilas won 62 ATP titles between 1969-1992, the record for a player from Argentina.
Schwartzman has been as high as No. 8 in the world. Currently, he shows three ATP titles and 168 match victories in his career. He’s played in 10 ATP finals.
One reason why the 5-foot-7 Schwartzman might not be getting much love from the Australian Open oddsmakers is that he’s a career 81-70 on hard court surfaces, a .530 winning percentage. Only one of his three ATP titles were earned on a hard court.
“I’m really proud because I did many great things in many different weeks [last] year,” Schwartzman told ATPTour.com. “But also I have the feeling in my body that I have to improve.”
Featured image: “Diego Schwartzman (ARG)” by RioOpen 2018 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0