Schwartzman Loves Paris And It Loves Him Back

Diego Schwartzman (photo: Roland Garros video)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, May 27, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Diego Schwartzman has often played at his best in the French capital city of Paris. He was a semifinalist at Roland Garros two years ago and a quarterfinalist last year. He arrived at this year’s French fortnight with a career 18-8 win-loss record at Stade Roland Garros and hungry to garner more wins.

After the first week, the diminutive, 5-foot-7 Argentine has added three more victories to his ledger and moves into the second week of the year’s second major feeling fit and confident.

On Friday, the 15th-seed Schwartzman defeated No. 18 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, 6-3, 6-1, 6-2, to reach the fourth round. He gained a bit of revenge for his recent loss to Dimitrov at Madrid earlier this month, when he won just three games in the Masters 1000 event. This time, Schwartzman was the better player over the course of the two-hour, 17-minute match on Court Simonne-Mathieu. He hit 20 winners to 20 unforced errors, while Dimitrov racked up 59 unforced errors plus an additional 23 forced errors that Schwartzman played a role in with his tenacious play.

“I am very happy because a few weeks ago, Grigor beat me very easily,” Schwartzman, 29, said during an on-court interview. “Now, things have changed a little bit. I played a great match and I think I improved. I was thinking with my team yesterday about what to improve for this match because Grigor has been playing great tennis.”

While Dimitrov came into the match following a pair of straight-set wins over Marcos Giron and Borna Coric, Schwartzman was pushed to four sets by qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov and needed five sets to overcome Jaume Munar.

“I think the conditions today being a little bit slower [meant] I was feeling the ball very well,” Schwartzman said. “I was very focused and only at the beginning of the third set were the nerves here in my shoulder and it was not easy. But at the end I think I played a great match and that is why the score is like this.”

Djokovic breezes past Bedene

Schwartzman’s next opponent will be World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. The 35-year-old, top-seeded Serbian advanced with an easy 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 195 Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia.

Djokovic has yet to drop a set through his first three matches at Stade Roland Garros. He accumulated 30 winners to just 18 unforced errors and moved into the fourth round for the 16th time. Bedene countered with 23 winners and made 37 unforced errors. Djokovic lost just two points on his serve through the first two sets and controlled much of the action from the baseline throughout the one-hour and 45-minute third-round match played on Court Philippe-Chatrier. It was Djokovic’s fourth career win in four tries against Bedene.

On Sunday, Djokovic will take a 6-0 career head-to-head advantage into their round of 16 match.

Anisimova, Fernandez set up fourth-round showdown

Three years ago, Amanada Anisimova became the youngest American to reach the French Open semifinals since Jennifer Capriati in 1990. Now, she enjoying another impressive clay-court season after reaching the fourth round via retirement over Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic, leading 6-7 (7), 6-2, 3-0, after two hours and 21 minutes.

After starting the clay season with a semifinal run at Charleston, S.C., the 20-year-old from Florida put together back-to-back quarterfinal finishes at Madrid and Rome. Her ranking has risen from No. 78 at the end of last year to No. 28. Seeded 27th at Roland Garros, Anisimova began her Parisian fortnight with an impressive 7 -5, 6-4 upset of former World No. 1 and four-time major titlist Naomi Osaka, then beat qualifier Donna Vekic. Now, she’s through to the round of 16 against No. 17 seed Leylah Fernandez of Canada, who eliminated No. 14 seed and Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

After upsetting No. 3 seed Maria Sakkari in the second round, the No. 81 Muchova, who had won her past five matches against Top-10 opponents, rolled her right ankle at 2-all in the second set after winning the 90-minute opener in a tie-break 9-7. She soldiered on until the pain became too unbearable.

“It’s always tough ending a match that way,” Anisimova told Tennis Channel after her match. “I hope she feels better. … It was a tough match, especially after the first set. I had to regroup and to try to find my game. With each match I’m finding my game more.”

Meanwhile, it’s the second time the 19-year-old Fernandez has advanced the second week of a major and follows on her breakthrough success at last year’s US Open, when she reached the title match. A winner of the French Open junior girls’ title in 2019, Fernandez saved a couple of set points in the opener and rallied from an early break down in the second set to win. Fernandez’s win over Bencic was her second Top-20 victory this season.

“I’m very happy with the match,” Fernandez said during an on-court interview in French. “It’s been one of my dreams to play on Court Philippe-Chatrier and to develop my game.”

Nadal win comfortably in unfamiliar surroundings

It’s not often that Rafael Nadal get assigned to play outside of Court Philippe-Chatrier. Being a 13-time Roland Garros champion has its privileges, right? However, Friday was one of those rare days and Court Suzanne-Lenglen is just a short distance away, where the World No. 5 Nadal faced No. 29 Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands and won 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

Nadal maintained a perfect set record during this Paris fortnight. After being broken in the opening game of the match, he broke back and held van de Zandschulp to love in his next five service games – winning 23 straight points on his serve. Nadal outpointed his opponent 97-64.

“Today has been a very good test and very positive test, because I was able to play my best match of the tournament so far, without any doubt,” Nadal said in his post-match press conference. “For two sets and a half, I was playing at a very positive level.”

Next, Nadal will face No. 9 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, who is currently coached by Nadal’s uncle, Toni Nadal. It was Uncle Toni, who coached Rafa from childhood to 2017.

Auger-Aliassime advanced to the fourth round with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2), 7-5 win over Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic, ranked 55th. The Canadian hit 16 aces and won 85 percent (57 of 67) of his first-serve points en route to earning his 26th win of the season.

“I already talked with Toni after my match,” Nadal said in press. “For me it’s very simple. He’s my uncle. I don’t think he will be able to want me to lose, without a doubt, but he’s a professional and he’s with another player. I don’t know what’s going to happen, if he’s going to stay in the box or not, but I don’t care. I have zero problem with that. So it’s not a story at all for me.

“I know the feelings that we have between each other. I know he wants the best for me. Now he’s helping another player. But honestly, for me, it’s zero problem, and I know he wants the best for me.”

Auger-Aliassime was asked about the awkwardness of facing Nadal and being coached by his uncle.

“I don’t know if I need insight on how Rafa plays. I think we all know what he does well. I don’t think Toni will tell me anything new about how Rafa plays,” Auger-Aliassime said during his post-match press conference. “But we had the discussion, it was black and white from the first time we started working together we knew it was a possibility that eventually I would play Rafa when I’m working with Toni.

“And now he’s present here in this Grand Slam. But I think Toni will watch from a neutral place and enjoy the match. From my part, it’s another match, another opportunity to try to play a good match and win, but of course, it’s very difficult.”

Inspired by great night-time atmosphere, Alcaraz beats Korda

Carlos Alcaraz has lost just once on clay this season, last month at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters to Sebastian Korda. Lessons were learned. Since then, the 19-year-old Spaniard has gone on to win titles at Barcelona and in Madrid, and he’s into the fourth round in Paris.

Friday night under the lights at Court Philippe-Chatrier, the sixth-seeded Alcaraz finished off No. 27 seed Korda from the United States, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, convincing any skeptics. He hit 24 winners and converted four break points and won in two hours and six minutes. It was also a rematch of last year’s Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals championship match, which Alcaraz won.

“It’s amazing to play in such a great atmosphere. I think the people enjoyed the match and I’m glad to play in front of such a good crowd,” Alcaraz said, beaming a smile for all to see and enjoy during his on-court interview with Eurosport’s Mats Wilander. “In the early matches, I’m trying to have fun out there. I love playing tennis and playing on these courts, so I’m enjoying every second.”

Next, Alcaraz will face No. 21 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia, who eliminated No. 10 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, 6-2, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4, in three hours and 37 minutes on Court Simonne-Mathieu. The upset should not come as too much of a surprise as Khachanov has been a French Open quarterfinalist in 2019 and reached the fourth round three other times.

Around Roland-Garros


After Alexander Zverev saved a match point and came back from two sets down to defeat rising Argentine star Sebastian Baez in the second round on Wednesday, the World No. 3 from Germany gained a hard-fought 7-6 (2), 6-3, 7-6 (5) victory over 75th-ranked American Brandon Nakashima Friday on Court Suzanne-Lenglen. Zverev closed out the match by hitting a stylish backhand for his 50th winner of the contest.

The two-hour and 48-minute win advanced Zverev into the French Open fourth round for the fifth consecutive year. After reaching the quarterfinals in 2018 and 2019, Zverev lifted himself into the semifinals at last year’s tournament. The loss dropped Nakashima to 0-7 against Top 20 opponents.

“I think I raised my level today,” Zverev said during his on-court interview. “I prefer this. This is much better for me.” He was referring to gaining a straight-set win versus having to come from behind to win in five sets.

“I don’t lose too much hair, I can still grow old,” Zverev quipped.

Next, Zverev will play 131st-ranked Spanish qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles, who went the distance to beat big-serving American John Isner, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3, in three hours and 31 minutes on Court 7. Zapata Miralles, 25, who became the first qualifier from Spain to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam since records began in 1983, recovered from squandering a 5-2 lead and four match points. Isner finished with 21 aces.


• No. 16 seed Coco Gauff of the United States reached the fourth round for the second straight year following her 83-minute 6-3, 6-4 win over Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi. It was youth beating experience as the 18-year-old Gauff overcame the 46th-ranked Kanepi, who at age 36, has been a giant slayer in past Grand Slam competitions. After dropping the opening game, Gauff won five straight games and cruised to victory.

Next, Gauff will face No. 31 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, who beat No. 71 Varvara Gracheva of Russia, 6-2, 6-3, to reach the fourth round for the second time in six Paris appearances.

• No. 21 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, a three-time major champion but never at Roland Garros, was denied, again, in her quest to complete a career Grand Slam. After winning a clay-court tune up last weekend in Strasbourg, Kerber bowed in the third round to No. 47 Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus, 6-4, 7-6 (5), on Court Simonne-Mathieu. The loss snapped the 17th-ranked Kerber’s clay-court winning streak at seven.

Next, Sasnovich will face 2020 Roland Garros quarterfinalist Martina Trevisan of Italy, who extended her winning streak to eight with a 6-3, 6-4 win over 127th-ranked Australian wild card Daria Seville, who had taken out two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the previous round. The 59th-ranked Trevisan recently won a tune up in Rabat, Morocco, and was feted by the supportive crowd on Court 14.

“Today was very special. I never played with a crowd like this,” Trevisan said. “I heard a lot of Martina, Martina, and it gave me a lot of energy. I’m not feeling pressure right now. I’m just enjoying the moment; I’m just playing well.”

• No. 23 seed Jil Teichmann of Switzerland came from a set and a break down to beat No. 15 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, 4-6, 7-5,7-6 (5), to advance to the fourth round against 2018 Roland Garros semifinalist Sloane Stephens of the United States.

The Teichmann-Azarenka match, contested on Court Simonne-Matthieu, was the longest in the women’s draw this year at three hours and 18 minutes. The victory was Teichmann’s seventh Top 20 win of the season and it lifted her int0 the fourth round of a major for the first time in her career.

“I knew I was going into a battle,” Teichmann said following her triumph on clay, which was her 10th in her last 12 matches. “One of the best qualities of Vika is being a fighter, as am I. I have been coming up with some great matches on clay, long matches. I knew I will have my chances, I will have to keep calm and do my part.”

Meanwhile, the 64th-ranked Stephens, who is four years removed from the 2018 French Open final, ended the surprising run of No 97 Diane Parry. The 19-year-old French teenager with the artistic one-fisted backhand had knocked out defending champion and World No. 2 Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic in the opening round Monday. Stephens, who has now won 31 career Roland Garros matches, won on her fourth match-point opportunity. She arrived in Paris having lost six of her last seven matches. Her three wins this week improved her season win-loss record to 9-7.

“Considering that I did not win a single match before coming into the French Open, I would say that I’m doing the absolute bet that I can, and that I am pleased to be in the fourth round for the eighth time,” Stephens said. “I don’t think  you ever know when it’s gonna happen or when it’s gonna click. … Happy to put the wins together now.”

Friday’s French Open results

Saturday’s French Open order of play

By the numbers

At age 18, Coco Gauff is the youngest player remaining in the women’s draw. Kaia Kanepi was the oldest in this year’s draw at 36. She was the fifth-oldest player in the Open Era (since 1968) to reach the third round of the French Open.

“Quotable …”

“I love Paris. I think it is the best city in the world. I am always happy to be back. I have a lot of good memories here. I reached the semifinals and lost against Rafa. I am very happy and enjoying every free day I have after I win.”

Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, in his on-court interview following his third-round win over Grigor Dimitrov.