‘Rafael Nadal beat me, but I gave my everything,’ Diego Schwartzman recalls

Following the final in Rome, Diego Schwartzman was one of the Roland Garros favorites alongside Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem last October. The Argentine had to beat the strongest trio to lift the trophy, starting from Dominic Thiem in the quarter-final. In one of the tournament’s best matches, Schwartzman toppled the two-time finalist in five sets after over five hours, earning one of his most brilliant wins and setting the clash against the 12-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal. Despite giving his best, Diego could not take at least a set against Rafa, who avenged the Rome defeat with a 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 triumph in three hours and nine minutes. It was Nadal’s 13th victory in as many semi-finals in Paris, beating the Argentine for the tenth time in 11 encounters and remaining on the title course. Diego said he gave everything to recover after that Thiem marathon and give his best against Rafa, still losing in straight sets.

Nadal had to dig deep to open a 6-3, 6-3, 4-2 advantage, losing ground a bit after that but still sealing the deal in the tie break to preserve energy. The Spaniard saved nine out of 12 break chances, controlling his games’ pace until the third set’s second part and delivering six breaks to emerge at the top. Rafa had the upper hand in the shortest and mid-range exchanges, playing aggressive tennis and hitting 40 winners and 35 unforced errors. The Spaniard was the more aggressive player in the opener, hitting the ball early and keeping the rival out of the comfort zone.

Nonetheless, he had to work hard in the opening game, fending off two break chances and bringing it home with a backhand crosscourt winner after long 13 minutes. In game two, the Argentine netted a backhand to suffer a break and pulled it back in the next one following Nadal’s loose backhand. The defending champion grabbed a break at 15 in game four to forge another lead, fended off a break chance a few minutes later with an ace down the T line and held after three deuces for a 4-1 advantage after enormous 40 minutes! Schwartzman produced comfortable holds in games six and eight but could not create more break chances, as Rafa held at 5-3 after two deuces to wrap up the opener in 65 minutes.

Rafael Nadal defeated Diego Schwartzman in straight sets at Roland Garros 2020.

Carried by this momentum, Nadal served at 80% in set number two, dropped four points behind the initial shot and mounted the pressure on the other side. Diego did his best to overpower the rival and hit more winners, achieving that while spraying too many errors that cost him two breaks. After two holds at love on each side, Nadal earned a break in game three thanks to Schwartzman’s backhand mistake and forced the opponent’s error in game four to build a 3-1 advantage. Diego survived three break points in game seven that could have pushed him further behind, winning five straight points to remain within one break deficit and leaving Rafa a bit frustrated after missing his opportunities. Still, the Spaniard left that behind, held at love in game eight and wrapped up the set with another break at 5-3 that sent him closer to the finish line.

Returners could not do much in the third set’s opening three games before Nadal clinched a break at love to open a 3-1 gap. Instead of building on it, Rafa played a loose service game to suffer a break when his forehand landed wide to keep the Argentine in contention. The Spaniard moved closer to the finish line with the second straight break at love that opened a 4-2 lead for him, squandering it straight away when his forehand landed long. Schwartzman held at 15 in game eight to level the score at 4-4, and Nadal held at love to move 5-4 up. At 30-30 in the tenth game, Rafa produced two massive mistakes that could have cost him dearly in the rest of the clash, losing three of the previous four games and having to work hard to avoid set number four.

Landing a couple of tired shots, the 12-time champion found himself 40-15 down in game 11 before firing up his forehand to save those break chances and fend off the third with a volley winner. Diego held at 15 in game 12 to reach the tie break that Rafa kicked off with two winners. The Argentine sprayed a smash error to find himself 4-0 down and sent a backhand long in the next one to push Rafa closer to the finish line. The Spaniard forced the rival’s mistake to create six match points and seized the first following the Argentine’s loose backhand to sail into the final.