Diego Schwartzman powers into Big Apple quarters

Diego Schwartzman (and inset) hits a return between his legs during his fourth-round four-set victory over Alexander Zverev late Monday night at the US Open.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Next up for 27-year-old Argentine Jew is monumental challenge against dynamo No. 2 Nadal.

NEW YORK – Jewish Argentine Diego Schwartzman battled and dominated No. 6 Alexander Zverev of Germany in their fourth-round match at the US Open late Monday night. The hard-hitting Schwartzman won 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 to advance to his third quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament, where he will face No. 2 Rafael Nadal.
Schwartzman, 27, who holds a 5-22 record versus top 10 players, was 1-1 against the hard-serving Zverev prior to Monday’s match. Zverev looked unstoppable as he started the match with two aces. He hit 11 aces overall, however his 17 double faults – many at key moments in the match – proved costly.
Schwartzman, known to be an excellent serve returner, had no aces and only one double fault. Zverev committed 65 unforced errors to Schwartzman’s 43.
“I have a lot of confidence in my return,” said Schwartzman. “I was trying to study where my opponents are going to serve in important moments. I saw many videos of Alex serving. I know it’s a weapon in my game. I need to use it.”
Schwartzman adds that his endurance is another strength of his and that he “has the confidence to beat many guys when the match goes on for many hours.”
Zverev noted in his post-match press conference that the court was “playing very low and slow,” and added, “credit to [Schwartzman]. He played a great match. I thought he was playing very aggressive. You know, he’s playing well.”
Prior to Monday, only Schwartzman, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal had not lost a set in this year’s US Open. Schwartzman had lost a total of 23 games, Djokovic 29 and Nadal, who won on a walkover in the second round (with Thanasi Kokkinakis bowing out due to injury), had lost just 16 games. No. Djokovic had to retire from his match against Stan Wawrinka due to a shoulder injury, while Nadal dropped a set, but claimed a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 over 2014 champion Marin Cilic.
After losing the first two points in the first game of the first set, Schwartzman jumpedto an early 2-0 lead before losing the next five games and falling 6-3.
The first two games of the second set followed a similar script with Schwartzman going up 2-0. At 2-2, Schwartzman served what would be the longest game of the day. After six deuces, Schwartzman hit a passing shot and forced Zverev to hit long to go up 3-2. Schwartzman didn’t lose another game that set.
“I think the momentum changed in the second set, where I had four or five breakpoints in one game, and I didn’t take them,” said Zverev.
Schwartzman agreed that this fifth game was an important turning point in the match.
“I had great save at two-all in the second set,” he said. “It was very important to me. Also, against [Zverev], he’s a big guy when he’s up in the score, so it was important to win the game. After that, I think I started to change my game a little and thought ‘OK this is how I need to play.’ Then, in the third and in the fourth, I tried to do the same – trying to be aggressive, and do good defenses. It was a great match after that first set.”
Schwartzman was looking forward to what will definitely be a tough quarterfinal duel.
“If I play Rafa, I need to be focused. I need to study my games against him. I have many good games, very good matches against him. I had my chances against him in many matches, but I haven’t been able to win against him. You never know when you are going to come the next opportunities.”
Nadal, meanwhile, faced his stiffest challenge yet, but raised his game to beat Cilic and continue his quest for a fourth Flushing Meadows title.
The second-seeded Spaniard was in cruise control as he took the first set behind some superb serving and stout defense, but the big-hitting Croatian battled back to snatch the second.
That was as good as it would get for Cilic, however, the momentum shifting decisively in Nadal’s favor when he jumped in the air to hit a spectacular overhead smash that electrified the crowd.
Cilic would double fault later in the game to give Nadal a 3-1 lead and he would never threaten again on a hot and humid night in New York, with Tiger Woods among the star-studded crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium cheering on the Spaniard.
Nadal fired a forehand winner on match point to seal the victory and make his 40th quarterfinal at a Grand Slam.
The 33-year-old 18-time Grand Slam champion has had a relatively stress-free time at the tournament so far, dropping just one set and getting a walkover in the second round.
Schwartzman has faced Nadal seven times and lost every meeting, but has proven a difficult test in the slams, forcing the Spaniard to go four tough sets at the 2018 Australian and French Opens.
“He is one of the most talented players on our tour,” said Nadal, who sometimes trains with Schwartzman. “He has everything, amazing control, amazing speed. He is one of my best friends. He is a real challenge”.
“He has the ability to read very well your shots and to understand very well the game. It is not a surprise he is there.
“I need to play my best in the next round to have the chance to be in the semifinals.”
Nadal is on a collision course with third seed Roger Federer and could meet his old rival in Sunday’s final if both players advance. Federer faced Grigor Dimitrov in the quarters late Tuesday night in match that finished after press time.
Reuters contributed to this report.

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