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“In Patagonia I will have a safe place” – interview with Diego Schwartzman

Diego Schwartzman
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LONDON – Diego Schwartzman says he is “another player” than he was in the first half of 2023, but he is not obsessed with regaining the status he held for more than five years.

“I’m at the stage of saying ‘let’s do our best to play the big tournaments’,” the Argentine told CLAY in an interview in London, after closing his participation in Wimbledon.

Schwartzman, who was ranked number eight in world in October 2020, spent several months in anguish after failing to win matches. He faced the feeling of frustration that he was unfamiliar with after so many successful seasons and that for a while he did not know how to handle. He fell abruptly in the ranking and dropped out of the top 100 for the first time in nine years.

Today he says that he has found the pieces to put together his mental puzzle, and face this different stage in his career, after meeting the goals he set for himself in the European Grand Slams.

“If I have to play qualies, I do it. The goal of these months in Europe was to make sure I got into the US Open and I did it. I faced the pressure of being forced to win in order not to go far behind, and I was able to do it. Then I’ll see how far I get and how far I don’t get. I like to play, if I continue like this I will be able to continue doing what I like”.

Diego Schwartzman assured that when the time comes when he runs out of desire, he will quit tennis. He still has it. And a lot of it. At 30 years old, the Argentinean looks at tennis with a different ambition.

Interview with Diego Schwartzmann

– You arrived with very poor results to the Grand Slams in Europe, and there you found matches that got you out of that bad streak.

– It makes me happy. The truth is that it is always difficult to keep winning matches in Grand Slams, and it always shows how prepared a player can be in five sets. On that side it’s very good. Both at Roland Garros and Wimbledon I showed much higher levels than I had shown in previous months. At times I played at a very high level. That gives you confidence for what’s next, but I’m not going much further. I am calm.

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– Your ranking is very different from what you are used to. Being near the 100th position implies having to schedule yourself to play qualifiers and Challengers in some cases. Do you need to be humble enough to accept this new stage?

– I think it goes beyond that. Look at Murray, Thiem or Wawrinka. They are Grand Slam champions, they have been among the best in the world, and then they went to play Challengers. So have several who have been at the top. I don’t think it’s a question of humility, but simply of wanting to get into a rhythm, wanting to come back. Everyone builds their own schedules. I will always try to play the tournaments I like the most, always prioritize the ATP and the big tournaments. If I have to play qualies, I do it. The goal of this grass tour, where I still had points from last year, was to make sure I got into the US Open and I did it. I won matches in Paris, Queen’s and Wimbledon. I faced the pressure of being obliged to win to avoid being far behind, and I was able to do it. I am happy because mentally I responded. My game responded. Then I’ll see how far it takes me and how far it doesn’t. I like to play. If I continue like this I will be able to continue doing what I like.

– Guillermo Salatino wrote an open letter to you in CLAY about the bad moments you have had on the court this year: “Peque, do what makes you happy” What do you want to do with your life today?

– I would love to be able to give less importance to a lot of things, but I like to do things well. My team taught me that from an early age. I’m not here to just come and enjoy myself. I would like to, but that’s not what I know how to do to get the results I want. I need to live with victory. I don’t like to lose, I don’t like to arrive to a tournament with poor preparation. And I think I found in certain issues how to put together my puzzle. Even with a much lower ranking than I could have had for many years. And I’m getting back to doing what makes me play well. I think I’m slowly transferring that to the court.

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– A lot of times on the court  a player crestfallen, without spark was seen.

– This is another player! When you realize that you are playing well and that you can decide what to do on the court, it’s a different feeling. It leaves you at ease to leave the court feeling fast, feeling that tennis is flowing.

– How do you imagine your near future?

– I’m not desperate to be back in the top 15 in the world, nor in the top 20, as I finished five, six years in a row (N. of the R: between 2018 and 2021 he finished the season in the top 20. In 2017 and 2022 meanwhile, he finished top 30). I’m at the stage of saying “let’s do our best to play the best tournaments”. If I get drawn against (Jannik) Sinner ten more times in the first or second round, well, tough. There will come that draw that will take me to the third round and beyond. I will try to do what always led me to play good tennis: the week before the Grand Slams not to play, to prepare myself well physically, to choose the tournaments I like the most. Those little things make me a much better player. Beating players who are in the top 50 and feeling superior, that’s important.

– Did you ever think during that bad streak about wiping yourself off the map for a couple of months?

– I wouldn’t do it for a couple of months. The moment I run out of desire I’m very clear that I won’t do it anymore. Thank God I have nothing to reproach myself for. Even if I were to stop my career today. I achieved many more things than I thought I would. I am very happy with everything tennis has given me so far. I would like to continue playing for several more years, but in the big tournaments, which are the ones that give me the adrenaline and the desire in the sport.

– And when the day comes…

– In Patagonia I will have a safe place. I love it.

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