Schwartzman wears down Thiem in a thriller

Diego Schwartzman outlasted US Open champ Dominic Thiem 7-6(1) 5-7, 6-7(6), 7-6(5), 6-2

Diego Schwartzman

There was a moment in the fourth set, when Dominic Thiem battled back from a triple set point on Diego Schwartzman’s serve, when the Argentine thought it probably wasn’t his day.

But he hung in, steady as can be, even as Dominic Thiem, running on fumes, veered between the brilliant and the errant. His courage and patience paid off as he battled to a 7-6(1) 5-7, 6-7(6), 7-6(5), 6-2 win over the World No 3 to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final.

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The French Open quarterfinal win, which came after five hours and eight minutes of hard-hitting, energy-sapping tennis, was Schwartzman’s first over a top-5 player in eight attempts. It also ended his three-match losing streak in Grand Slam quarterfinals.

“In the second and in the third set, when I was close to winning those sets, I couldn’t do it,” the 5’7 Argentine said on Tuesday.

“At that time I was thinking that today it’s not going to happen, because I had a lot of opportunities. Easy, tough ones, hard – every single opportunity was different and I didn’t take them.”

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Schwartzman held a set point in the third set as well, before Thiem sent it into a tie-breaker. The Austrian, who won his first Grand Slam at the US Open last month, though wasn’t at his physical best as he had played another draining five-setter, against Frenchman Hugo Gaston, in the fourth round.

And though he battled gamely against the 12th seeded Schwartzman, chasing down balls from corner to corner in lung-busting rallies, he just didn’t have enough left in the tank. The Argentine had 71 net approaches, and like Gaston, kept testing Thiem with deft drop shots.

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“To be honest I was over the limit today,” said Thiem, who hit 65 winners but made a total of 81 unforced errors. “At the end I gave everything that I had out there, it was an amazing match.”

“I think if I would have wanted to win that match, I should have done it in four,” Thiem said. “In the fifth set, he was just a little bit more fresh and better than me.”

The Austrian’s 11-match winning streak came to an end on Tuesday and is now 28-7 for the 2020 season. It is also the first time since 2015 that Thiem has failed to reach the semi-finals or better at the clay-court major.

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“I mean, we both gave everything,” the US Open champ said. “Well, the thing in tennis is that there is one loser, one winner. Despite that fact I’m so disappointed, I’m still happy for him.”

The road only gets tougher for Schwartzman as he takes on Rafael Nadal in the semi-final. Though the Argentine defeated the 12-time French Open champion in Rome recently, he is keeping his expectations tempered.

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“I’m 10-1 (9-1) down,” he said with a smile about his career record against the ‘King of Clay’. “I’m not sure if I’m going to have a lot of confidence. But, yeah, I know this week that I can beat him. That’s the important thing.”