How Far Can Diego Schwartzman Go?

Diego Schwartzman at the Argentina Open

Despite reaching the quarterfinals of the 2020 French Open without dropping a set, Diego Schwartzman has somewhat flown under the radar. This is perhaps understandable given the progress of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Dominic Thiem–the three clear front runners for the title.

Schwartzman–who is aiming to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal–will face Thiem on Tuesday in his fourth Major quarterfinal. Two of his previous last eight appearances came at the US Open, while the other came at the 2018 French Open. In that Roland Garros run, Schwartzman fell to the eventual champion Nadal in four sets.

The Argentine further enhanced his clay court reputation by beating Nadal on his way to the Rome final last month. He has ridden that wave into Paris and has thus far performed superbly.

Clinical Progress

In the first round, Schwartzman saw off Miomir Kecmanovic for the loss of just four games. Kecmanovic recently won the clay court ATP 250 event in Kitzbuhel. The Argentine then took apart world #157 Lorenzo Giustino in the second round – dropping only six games.

The world #14 followed that with a more challenging straight-set third round triumph against Norbert Gombos. Schwartzman saved six set points in the opening set en route to prevailing for the loss of 12 games.

In the fourth round, Schwartzman defeated world #46 Lorenzo Sonego, losing just eight games. The Italian had earned solid straight-set victories against Alexander Bublik and Taylor Fritz in the previous two rounds.

Although world #41 Kecmanovic is the highest ranked opponent Schwartzman has faced, the Argentine’s clinical progress through the first first week is nonetheless impressive. His effort of dropping a total of 30 games in four matches is not far off the ruthless standards set by Nadal and Djokovic – who have dropped 23 and 25 games respectively.

Route to the Title

While Schwartzman, Nadal, and Djokovic have all advanced to the last eight routinely, the Argentine’s next opponent Thiem has endured a tougher passage. After three straight-set wins, the Austrian was pushed to five sets by French wildcard Hugo Gaston in the fourth round.

The US Open champion appeared to be struggling physically and Schwartzman will have a real chance if the world #3 is below 100%. In any case, the Argentine has a 2-6 record against Thiem and will need to produce a career-best Grand Slam performance to defeat the two-time French Open finalist.

If Schwartzman could pull that off, he would likely face Nadal in the last four. While he trails the head-to-head 1-9 against the world #2, the fact that his one win came recently in Rome should give the world #14 belief.

It would, though, be a different proposition to dethrone the “King of Clay” over five sets at Roland Garros. Schwartzman would be favourite to beat Jannik Sinner in a potential semi-final if the 19-year-old Italian could pull off a monumental upset and overcome Nadal.

If Schwartzman advanced through his semi-final, Novak Djokovic would then be his most probable final opponent. In a rematch of the Rome final, the Argentine would be a clear underdog against the world #1 – who he has failed to beat in five previous meetings. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, and Pablo Carreno Busta, would be his other possible final adversaries.

It is hard to see Schwartzman going all the way given he will likely need to go through Thiem, Nadal, and Djokovic, but it will certainly take a strong performance to stop him in this form.

Main Photo from Getty.