Dominic Thiem vs Diego Schwartzman was tipped by many to be the best match of Roland Garros 2020. And while the quality of the tennis didn't quite live up to the expectations, the drama and effort put in certainly did.
The two players, who are great friends off the court, fought like gladiators for every possible grain of clay. To give an idea of how brutal the battle was, the scorecard still read one-set apiece when the match clock read 3.10 hours.
The match - or the epic - kept swinging like a proverbial pendulum. Right from the first set, each player had chances to get a conclusive grip on the match, only to see the other player charging in and dousing all prospects of a runaway set.
In the first set, Diego Thiem looked a little flat and sluggish but still managed to get the early break. Fatigue was clearly holding back, and many thought he was lucky to be ahead.
Diego Schwartzman soon righted the ship though, and got back on serve with some deft claycourt play. The Argentine continued his momentum all the way into the tiebreaker, which he won while conceding just one point.
The second set switched sides constantly. Dominic Thiem was a break up early but again couldn't hold on to his advantage, and before long he was serving to stay in the set. But Schwartzman couldn't take his chance, and Thiem eventually unleashed his signature down-the-line backhand to break and seal the set 7-5.
In the third set, the No. 3 seed showed why he’s a Grand Slam champion as he grabbed the tiebreaker - after multiple comebacks from each player from a break down - in scintillating fashion. There were delicate drop shots, flying forehands and explosive movement towards the closing stages of the set, which brought everyone to their feet.
Moments like these can take the life out of a mortal. After putting in all your effort if you still find yourself staring at defeat, the fight within you can easily get extinguished.
But Diego Schwartzman stood tall in his 5’7" frame. Even after going down a break down in the fourth, the Argentine never looked despondent. He knew he had his chances all through the match - and that he could still take them.
And that’s what he did. After failing to convert three consecutive set points on his serve at 5-4 in the fourth, Schwartzman did not let up on the fourth opportunity. Dominic Thiem, at one moment in the set, was two points from winning the match. But that was a distance that in retrospect was too large.
Dominic Thiem showed a lot of heart to come back repeatedly in the match despite struggling with his fitness and movement. But in Grand Slams, against players of the quality of Diego Schwartzman, heart is not enough; you have to be at your physical best day in and day out. And unfortunately for Thiem, that was not to be at this year's French Open.
The fifth set was an altogether different story to the first four; the pendulum had run its course. Dominic Thiem, growing weaker with each point, could not keep up with Diego Schwartzman’s defense. And after 5 hours and 10 minutes of relentless tennis, Schwartzman sealed the biggest victory of his career.
It was a match of infinite comebacks. It was an epic that could have gone either way. And like with all epic matches, one player would have slept at night in ecstasy and the other in agony.Published 07 Oct 2020, 11:58 IST