On Friday, Diego Schwartzman will take on Rafael Nadal for a place in the final of Roland Garros. The Argentine and the Spaniard have met 10 times on the professional circuit before, and Nadal has a 9-1 edge over Schwartzman in the head-to-head.
However, their most recent match was won by Schwartzman in surprisingly straightforward fashion.
The 1.70-meter tall Diego Schwartzman has often dismissed the notion of his height being a challenge to his tennis prospects. But one person who can identify with the Argentine is Harold Solomon, who at 1.68 meters was also among the shorter players on the tour during his time.
Solomon reached as high as World No. 5 during his playing days, and after retirement went on to coach several top players including Jennifer Capriati, Mary Joe Fernandez, Eugenie Bouchard, Jim Courier, Monica Seles and Anna Kournikova among others. The 68-year-old is a big fan of Schwartzman since he knows how difficult it for a player of his height to compete with the taller players on the tour.
“I’m very intrigued watching him and I'm always impressed. I root for him all the time,” Solomon told ATPTour.com. “He can say what he wants about being a little guy, but it’s not easy being a little guy in a big guy’s world.. It’s amazing every time he goes out there, wins matches and defeats these guys. He’s got a big fan in me.”
Diego Schwartzman took advantage of Rafael Nadal's short hitting in Rome: Harold Solomon
With his background in the game as a player and coach, Solomon has a keen eye for the tactics that top players use in their matches. The American believes one of the keys to Schwartzman's win last month in Rome was that Rafael Nadal was hitting a bit shorter than usual, which helped the Argentine go on the attack.
"Rafa’s balls were landing short, which they do at times anyway, but normally they have enough stuff on them that they’re hard for people to attack," Solomon said. "A lot of his balls were landing at the service line or just past the service line and when he was hitting his backhand, he would hit his normal backhand and it just doesn’t jump like his forehand."
Solomon went on to explain how Schwartzman actually borrowed a tactic from the Novak Djokovic playbook, refusing to let the ball rear up high on his backhand side.
"Diego was able to take the ball early and it was a good battle for him," Solomon said. "He almost played his ball the way Djokovic plays Rafa’s ball. Djokovic has been successful against Rafael Nadal when he’s able to take the ball early and not let it get way up high on him with his two-hander, where he can’t do too much with it."
Solomon also added that the conditions in Paris are pretty similar to those in Rome, and that he wasn't ruling out a chance for Schwartzman to cause an upset.
“You would think it would be a matter of time from an attrition point of view that Rafael Nadal would be able to physically and mentally dominate that match three out of five sets. But Diego plays amazing tennis and you never know,” Solomon said.
The semifinal match between Rafael Nadal and Diego Schwartzman is scheduled to take place at Roland Garros on Friday.Published 09 Oct 2020, 01:32 IST