Schwartzman outlasts Thiem to make French Open semis after epic

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Twelfth seed Diego Schwartzman advanced to his first ever French Open semi-final after defeating third seed Dominic Thiem in an epic encounter, winning 7-6, 5-7, 6-7, 7-6, 6-2.
  • French Open quarter final
  • SCHWARTZMANN (12) d. THIEM (3) 7-6, 5-7, 6-7, 7-6, 6-2.
  • Key match stats: This was one that could have gone either way, Schwartzman winning 197 to 179 of total points.
  • You will also learn: This was Thiem’s second successive five-set match, the Austrian having defeated French wildcard Hugo Gaston in the previous round.
  • Why read this story: It gets no easier for Schwartzman. He has it all to so after this epic, the route to Roland Garros glory possibly being Nadal then Djokovic!

There was a lovely exchange of words and smiles at the net between the good friends afterwards. And in winning the match, Schwartzman next plays either Rafael Nadal or Italy’s Jannik Sinner for a place in the final.

“Dominic is one of the best players right now in the world, winning the last grand slam, two times final here,” said Schwartzman after the match. “We are friends, I have a lot of respect for him and that’s why this match is very, very important for me, not to play a good match, winning after five hours, winning on Philippe Chatrier first time. I’ve played a few times five sets here and I never win! This is the third time I’ve played five sets here and I think at the end, I deserved to win.”

It was an intriguing start, Thiem saving break point in the opening game to win it with three consecutive aces.

And it was the Austrian who gained the first break of serve for a 4-2 advantage, one that appeared would be decisive. Back came the Argentine, gaining the immediate break back before saving two more on his own serve to level at 4-4.

The topsy-turvy nature of the match continued as Thiem saved a break point on his own serve that would have left his opponent serving for the set. And it was perhaps inevitable the opener would be decided on a breaker.

Thiem had the upper hand in the pair’s Head-to-Head (6-1) and was the favourite going in. But it was Schwartzman who dominated the tie-break, dropping just the single point to take the early advantage.

It appeared as if the Austrian’s five-set epic against Hugo Gaston in the fourth round perhaps may have taken its toll. But that’s to underestimate the strength of the third seed, and many’s favourite for the title, as he gained the immediate break in the second only to gift it back as the first drops of rain started to descend on Philippe Chatrier.

The rain abated to allow play to continue without closure of the roof, but the exceptional standard of play did not relent, Schwartzman saving seven break points in the ninth game but failing to take two of his own. It proved terminal, as Thiem broke and served out to level the match at a set apiece.

The winner of the match knew that it would still be a long, hard graft to the final, with Rafael Nadal then Novak Djokovic being the likely route to French Open glory. Schwartzman had never before beaten a top five player in a major, but he looked on target when serving for the third.

Yet pressure is a funny thing in tennis, and it was Thiem who broke back to love as the set took its course. Schwartzman had his chances, missing a set point on the Austrian’s serve, but took his opportunity the next time as the third went to a breaker.

It was another tense affair, but it was Thiem who suddenly found his second wind, mixing angles with exquisite drop shots to take a 65-minute set (8-6). The pair exchanged early breaks in the fourth and the bizarre pattern continued throughout the set, Schwartzman squandering three set points on serve.

A tie-break would again decide matters in the fourth, and it was perhaps inevitable that Schwartzman would edge it to take this tightest of tight matches the distance, and deservedly so. Momentum on his side and the excursions of the previous month possibly catching up with Thiem, Schwartzman powered through the decider.

“In the first set I was out of my mind, I don’t know what the people were thinking about me at the time but I was crazy, I mean I was screaming, talking to my coach, my coach was saying play tennis, nothing else,” added Schwartzman. “I was so nervous because I saw the chance today and I didn’t take it in the second and the third, but I’m very happy. Not just for the semi-final, but it’s a big step for me and I’m very happy.”

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