Getting the better of Rafael Nadal on a clay court takes some doing. At Masters 1000 level the Spaniard has won 184 matches and lost just 21 matches now one of the 21 is Diego Schwartzman.
Rafa who owns 25 Masters 1000 titles on the clay courts around Europe will be heading to the French capital, Paris on the back of a masterclass from the Argentine.
Over the years history shows there have been more titles for Rafa at this level than defeats but this is up there with some of the great performances against Rafa.
What I love about Diego is you get what you see from him. He is a hard worker, gritty and comes to the court with a plan and this plan worked to perfection.
Having a plan is good but after nine defeats in a row against the same player it takes some steel to play how Diego did to record his first top five win of his career.
When people talk about Diego during commentary the buzz word is ‘height’ and I find it quite dis-respectful. He isn’t the tallest but the game isn’t built on the tallest winning and her utilises his skills better than most.
Watching him move about on the court and the speed is quite phenomenal, no ball is a lost cause when Diego is involved and he will happily put himself on the run knowing he can chase balls down to nullify opponents and that’s what he did to Rafa.
You can see against Lajovic the Spaniard is where he wants to be. He is camped in that backhand corner, he has the speed to cover cross court if pushed out there onto the running forehand and he wants to begin with the backhand and beginning penetrating the defence.
Any short ball he got against Lajovic he could step in on the backhand or go inside out on the forehand or flick it up the line he has options.
Against Schwartzman it was another story…
In tennis it’s important to create angles the problem is a pest on the other side of the net contracting points like playstation tennis. He would go central and deep = no angles and wait for that short ball before painting the right side line with the inside out forehand or the backhand down the line or back behind.
He just wasn’t afraid and that spoke volumes in the backhand.
I love a two handed backhand down the line or cross court but against a lefty you can get picked off, a left handed player especially Rafael Nadal loves a target but he rarely got one.
The diagram shows the backhands of Diego from the first set and you can see he did go into those cross-court rallies an awful lot but also picked it off the line.
Playing against one of the best in Rafa it isn’t about going into the open space but being smart with your tennis. As I said, Rafa likes a target so don’t give him one and go back behind…
This is Rafa’s serve and the fourth shot and it’s a clean winner cross. Down the line could be profitable and dangerous but you see Diego set himself on the backhand and Rafa is already making those strides cross-court and Diego picks off a perfect winner.
It was a theme and thoroughly deserved victory from the relentless Argentine.
Easy to forget that before this win on Saturday night Diego was:
0-9 vs Rafael Nadal
0-22 vs Top 5 Players
0-17 vs Big 3