In a clash between the undisputed king of clay and a man making his debut in the French Open quarterfinals, Rafael Nadal takes on Diego Schwartzman for a place in the last four at Roland Garros. Nadal, who has lost just one of his eleven quarterfinals in Paris, will be looking to continue the fine form that saw him reach the last eight without dropping a set. Schwartzman, meanwhile, has had to battle his way to the quarterfinals. But who will come out on top?
Nadal and Schwartzman have clashed five times in a matchup that has not favoured the Argentinian, who is yet to win a match against the world #1. Their first match came in 2013 in Acapulco where the Spaniard ran out a comfortable 6-2 6-2 winner. He then defeated Schwartzman again in straight sets 7-6 6-3 7-5 at the US Open in 2015. Nadal next got the better of Schwartzman in the Monte Carlo quarterfinals last year, winning 6-4 6-4 on his way to a tenth title in the Principality.
They have also faced off twice this year. The first match came early in the season at the Australian Open in the fourth round. Nadal looked to be struggling somewhat physically during that match, and indeed retired in the next round, but managed to win through in four, 6-3 6-7 6-3 6-3. He found himself in a stronger position when they most recently renewed their rivalry, in Madrid in the third round. Nadal comfortably beat Schwartzman 6-3 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals.
Path to the quarterfinals
Nadal’s progress has been impressive if not as serene as it was last year. He began his campaign by defeating Simone Bolelli in a rain-delayed match, 6-3 6-4 7-6, though he did have to save three set points in the third set tiebreak. He then comfortably beat Guido Pella, 6-2 6-1 6-1, and inflicted a 16th straight defeat on Richard Gasquet, 6-3 6-2 6-2, to reach the fourth round, where he overcame Germany’s Maximilian Marterer 6-3 6-2 7-6.
Schwartzman began in dominant fashion, defeating wildcard Calvin Hemery 6-1 6-3 6-1. He followed that up with a fine victory over Czech qualifier Adam Pavlasek, beating him by the same score. Borna Coric offered slightly more resistance, particularly in the first set, before he was overwhelmed by Schwartzman who reached the fourth round courtesy of a 7-5 6-3 6-3 win. He then impressively rallied back from two sets down, twice breaking back to stay alive, to upset Kevin Anderson 1-6 2-6 7-5 7-6 6-2.
How do they match up?
Both Schwartzman and Nadal are excellent clay courters. There are few, if any, players in the history of the game who moved better on a clay court than Nadal. His defence is particularly effective on Philippe Chatrier where the depth of the court allows him to defend from far beyond the baseline. What may separate him from Schwartzman in this match, however, is his offensive capabilities. Though a fine ball striker, the Argentine simply cannot match Nadal’s power.
The Nadal juggernaut is looking increasingly unlikely to be stopped this year in Paris. Schwartzman, who comes into this match having never beaten Nadal and off the back of a draining five set match, surely cannot fancy his chances that he will be the one to stop the great man. Schwartzman has the quality to keep the score respectable, but unless Nadal’s level unexpectedly drops, that will be all he can achieve. Nadal in straight sets.