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Diego Schwartzman: Why Height Doesn't Define Me

  • Posted: Jan 24, 2020

Diego Schwartzman: Why Height Doesn’t Define Me

In the newest installation of’s My Point series, Argentine Diego Schwartzman, who next plays seven-time champion Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open, explains why being 5’7″ was the least difficult hurdle for him to overcome to get where he is now as a professional tennis player

A lot of people ask me about my height.

How does being 5’7” affect you as a tennis pro? What do you think you could have done if you were taller?

My answer is always the same: I have worse problems than being 10 centimetres shorter than everybody else.

When I walk onto a tennis court, I don’t think about how tall I am or how much bigger my opponent is. I know there is a difference, but so what?

Maybe if I was 10 or 15 centimetres taller, I’d have a better serve or be able to hit with more power. But my height isn’t going to change. I’m not going to wake up the size of John Isner or Ivo Karlovic.

There are reasons that I might not have made it here, but they have nothing to do with my size.

Before I was born, my family earned an amazing living in South America. They owned a clothing and jewelry company that made them a lot of money. They had a house in Uruguay where they went every December and January to enjoy the summer. They had a house in the capital and another one outside the capital. They owned many cars. Life was amazing.

But things changed when I was born. My family lost everything. In the 1990s in Argentina, the government cut imports. My father kept spending money to try to get things from outside the country, but there was no chance and he started doing worse and worse and worse. It was terrible. My mom tried to get the material for clothes from China, but there was no way to get it in Argentina.

My family had no more business, no more extra houses and cars. Just me, my two older brothers, my older sister and my parents trying to make a living for us.

Because we didn’t have a lot of money, it was really tough to start playing tennis or any sport for that matter. We really couldn’t afford it. But I played as much as I could.

I was actually named after football legend Diego Maradona, so of course one of the sports I played was football. When I was little, my grandmother bought me uniforms from European teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona. The first team I played for, I scored a lot. I would go to the club to try tennis, too, wearing those same jerseys my grandmother got me. If the courts were full, I would play in a hallway with my father. We always used adult racquets even if I was little, because I never liked the kids racquets.


As the years went by, I realised that in tennis, most things depended on me, and not others around me. It would be about the effort I put in, and there was a charm about knowing I would be rewarded for the work I put in. I also was better at tennis than football, so I wanted to take it more seriously.

I started travelling to many tournaments with my mother. My dad would promise me that he booked us a nice hotel with TV, computer, Internet and everything that we needed.

Why are you lying?

I used to call him all the time to ask that. There was never a TV, and at almost every tournament we went to we had to share one bed. We stayed once at a hotel because a room cost only two pesos.

It was the same thing over and over, but we had no choice. This is what we could afford.

At one point, we were even selling rubber bracelets that were left over from the business my family had. We did anything we could do to get money to pay for trips to tournaments and the travel costs.

Looking back, it was a tough situation. But at the time, it was funny. I helped my mom selling the bracelets, and so did some of the other players. Between matches we would all run around with a bag of bracelets to see who could sell the most, and my mom would give them 20 per cent of the money. It was like two competitions in one — tennis and selling bracelets!

I sort of understood at the time why we did all this, but I didn’t feel it, because my parents were trying to work hard to let me focus on playing and travelling while they worried about the money.

When I was 13, I began to go on flights by myself to places like Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, and I would cry on the plane. I wanted to be with my family. But playing those events was part of my journey. And I know that even if those times were difficult, they helped me become a better competitor.

Also, when I was 13, a doctor told me I would never be taller than 5’7”. I know I told you that height doesn’t mean much. But back then, I was devastated. I didn’t know what I was going to be able to do well with my life if the doctor was right. I didn’t know if I still wanted to play tennis.

My parents didn’t let me get down, though. They told me my height shouldn’t influence my dreams. And luckily, when I was 15 or 16, I started to have many people around who tried to help me with money, travel, a coach, a trainer, with everything. At that point, it became easier for my family and me.

I was never a top junior — the only junior Grand Slam I played was the 2010 US Open qualifying, where I lost in the first round. I messaged my family that day that I didn’t know what I was doing there. But I don’t think about all of those tough times much anymore. And once I became a professional, I never doubted myself, no matter the odds.


I always had confidence in my game and my career. I always thought I could do it. Here I am now, competing with the best players in the world.

Knowing what my family went through taught me valuable lessons about the importance of family, and gave me a better understanding of how to look at the bigger picture when it comes to sports. Whatever happens in my career doesn’t compare to what my parents endured.

But even all of that pales into comparison to what my ancestors went through. I have Jewish roots, and my great grandfather on my mom’s side, who lived in Poland, was put on a train to a concentration camp during the Holocaust.

The coupling that connected two of the train’s cars somehow broke. Part of the train kept going, and the other stayed behind. That allowed everyone trapped inside, including my great grandfather, to run for their lives. Luckily, he made it without being caught. Just thinking about it makes me realise how lives can change in a heartbeat.

My great grandfather brought his family by boat to Argentina. When they arrived, they spoke Yiddish and no Spanish. My father’s family was from Russia, and they also went to Argentina by boat. It wasn’t easy for all of them to totally change their lives after the war, but they did.

So from my ancestor escaping a train on its way to a concentration camp to staying in tiny hotel rooms and selling bracelets, I consider myself lucky. But everyone has a story. I’m not the only one who has faced adversity. It’s about not letting the tough moments drag you down, and using them as motivation to help you turn a bad situation into something good.

I never imagined my career being where it is now. But no matter what I’ve dealt with, I’ve always worked hard, and I think pushing through those hurdles has made me a better competitor and an even better person. If I can get this far, so can you. Believe in yourself no matter what, give everything you have and one day — even if you’re 5’7” — you can accomplish your dreams too.


Read More ‘My Point’ First-Person Essays

– As told to Andrew Eichenholz, with reporting from Juan Diego Ramirez Carvajal and Marcos Zugasti.

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Gauff shines before getting on with homework, Federer through and Williams exits on epic day

  • Posted: Jan 24, 2020
2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Thrillers in sport are like buses: you wait ages for one and then three come along at once.

The fifth day of the Australian Open saw 15-year-old Coco Gauff re-emerge and stun defending champion Naomi Osaka in a brutal display in Melbourne.

That came just after pre-tournament favourite Serena Williams, chasing a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title, was knocked out by Wang Qiang.

And then Roger Federer capped the day by somehow coming through a five-set thriller against John Millman.

That’s all without mentioning Caroline Wozniacki bringing an end to her sterling 15-year career.

Oh, and defending Novak Djokovic breezed into the fourth round too…

  • Relive thrilling fifth day in Melbourne

‘What is my life?’

When Gauff was born in 2004, Venus Williams had won four of her seven Grand Slams.

Two years ago, Gauff lost in the first round in the Australian Open juniors. Even last year, when Osaka was lifting her second Slam trophy in Melbourne, Gauff was just 14 and ranked 684th in the world.

At 11pm on the night before her final qualifying match for Wimbledon 2019, Gauff stayed up to take a science test. The next morning, she took just under an hour to reach the main draw.

Wimbledon was her breakthrough; she stunned Venus in the first round and marched through to the last 16, where she lost to eventual champion Simona Halep.

Not every Slam performance has gone the teenager’s way – she was thrashed by Osaka at the US Open last year, with both players crying after Osaka’s 6-3 6-0 win.

October saw Gauff win her maiden WTA title. She spent the off-season practising with Serena Williams, whose posters she had on her wall. Former First Lady Michelle Obama asked for her autograph.

And then, on the fifth day in Melbourne, Gauff produced a mature, hard-hitting performance to end Osaka’s title defence in straight sets on the Rod Laver Arena.

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She admitted afterwards that while she had passed him in a corridor, she had yet to meet the Arena’s legendary namesake – and she wants a selfie for her Instagram.

“Oh my gosh. This is crazy,” Gauff said after her win over Osaka. “I don’t know where that came from. Honestly, like, what is my life?”

And Gauff’s reward for reaching the last 16 of a Slam?

“I’ll probably do homework tomorrow,” she said.

“My teachers are giving me some time because of the circumstances… they’re letting me submit some assignments late, so that’s nice.”

  • Gauff stuns Osaka – report & analysis

‘What she’s doing is nuts’ – reaction to Gauff win

Former world number five Daniela Hantuchova on BBC Radio 5 Live: “Coco just makes it look so natural. It’s why she’s going to be one of the greatest – if not the greatest – of all time.”

Tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg: “What Coco Gauff is doing is nuts. It’s pretty hard to overstate that.”

TV presenter Richard Osman: “If Coco Gauff wins two Grand Slams a year until she’s Serena’s age – which you wouldn’t bet against – she’ll win 46.”

Serena Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam winner: “I was nowhere near Coco’s level either on the court or off the court, not even close. I was nowhere near as smart and eloquent as she is. It’s nice to see.”

Federer fights demons in marathon win

When he was 8-4 down in the final set tie-break, Federer admitted he was getting ready to “explain myself in the press”.

He had lost his past three five-set Slam matches – including that epic Wimbledon final against Novak Djokovic last year – and it was Millman who stunned him at the US Open in 2018.

But, after losing the first set, after serving five double faults and hitting 82 unforced errors, Federer somehow rallied to win the final six points of the match and claim victory in four hours three minutes.

“The demons – they’re always there, they’re lurking,” Federer said after his win.

“I can’t even speak any more. It came down to the wire.”

However the victory came, Federer is still in with a chance of claiming a seventh Australian Open trophy and a record-extending 21st Grand Slam title.

  • Federer battles into fourth round – report

‘Unprofessional’ Serena bows out

It was a different story for Serena Williams, who suffered her earliest exist in at the Australian Open since 2006 at the hands of Chinese 27th seed Wang.

Wang won just 15 points when the two last met at the US Open, but she dialled in to beat Williams 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 7-5 and reach the fourth round.

Williams has reached four Grand Slam finals since returning from maternity leave and has lost all four in straight sets.

She may be in her 23rd year as a professional but she says she still has the drive to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record.

“I don’t play just to have fun. To lose is really not fun,” she said.

“I just made far too many errors to be a professional athlete today.”

  • Williams out – report

Wozniacki says goodbye & Tsitsipas is knocked out

Williams was comforted in the locker room afterwards by her long-time friend Wozniacki, who retired after her third-round defeat by Ons Jabeur.

The crowd serenaded the Dane – a champion in Melbourne in 2018 – with ‘Sweet Caroline’ as she did a lap of honour.

Wozniacki announced in November that the Australian Open would be her last tournament.

Meanwhile, Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas added to the shocks when he fell in straight sets to former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic of Canada.

Tsitsipas, who won the year-end ATP Tour finals in 2019 and beat Federer last year in Melbourne, said some of Raonic’s shots were like “getting punched in the face”.

“I felt a bit stupid returning his serves. It’s a strange game of tennis in general,” he added.

“It’s one shot that you can get knocked down all the time, and you’re just there, getting punched in the face with one shot.

  • Players pay tribute to emotional Wozniacki

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Six-time champion Federer survives scare to win in final-set tie-break

  • Posted: Jan 24, 2020
2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Six-time champion Roger Federer survived a huge scare to beat unseeded Australian John Millman 10-8 in a final-set tie-break and reach the Australian Open fourth round.

The Swiss world number three won 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 4-6 7-6 (10-8) in an epic that lasted four hours three minutes.

Federer, 38, trailed 8-4 in the deciding tie-break – but won six points in a row to progress.

He will face Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics in the fourth round.

  • Follow reaction to Federer’s thrilling victory
  • Live scores, schedule and results

Millman pushes Federer to the limit… again

Federer and Millman produced a match which will live long in the memory of those who saw it when the Australian earned the best win of his career against the flustered Swiss in the 2018 US Open fourth round.

This epic surpassed even that in terms of intensity and drama.

Millman pushed Federer to the limit on that humid night in New York and, in much cooler temperatures which did not sap the veteran of his physical strength this time, managed to do the same in Melbourne.

Rarely is the crowd on Rod Laver Arena not fully behind the 20-time Grand Slam champion, this occasion one of them with the 15,000 fans virtually split down the middle in their support.

The charismatic Millman always seems to enjoy his moments in the spotlight, unsurprising given he has had a long route to the big time after serious shoulder and groin injuries left him close to quitting.

Millman particularly thrives against Federer, who was powerless to stop some unnerving winners – typified by two crackerjacks in the match tie-break – and could not cope with his second serve.

But only a second victory against a top-10 player in 16 attempts – Federer, of course, also falling in the other – was snatched from his grasp as the Swiss won six straight points to seal victory at 00:50 local time in Melbourne.

“What a match. John deserves way more than half of this. He made it so difficult for me,” said Federer afterwards.

“He was doing all that stuff and kept on coming up with the goods. He deserves all the support – he is a great story and a great fighter.”

More to follow.

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Tsitsipas: 'Like Getting Punched In The Face'

  • Posted: Jan 24, 2020

Tsitsipas: ‘Like Getting Punched In The Face’

Greek star K.O.’d by Raonic power

As a freewheeling shot maker accustomed to dictating play, Stefanos Tsitsipas found himself in foreign territory Friday night against Milos Raonic in the third round of the Australian Open.

The reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion had no answer to Raonic’s massive first serve and runaround forehands as he crashed to a straight-sets defeat after failing to earn a lone break point chance in the match.

The 21-year-old readily admitted that he had no answer to the serve of the Canadian, who has not faced a break point in two of his three matches this week and has not dropped serve during the tournament. He is winning close to 90 per cent of first-serve points.

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“It’s one shot that you can get knocked down all the time, and you’re just there, getting punched in the face with one shot. You can’t do much,” Tsitsipas said. “He’s serving aces T, wide, on the line, so precise, so accurate, which obviously is a skill. I’m not saying it’s luck. It’s a skill. And the person deserves to win those points.

“It’s quite difficult to play him. He’s playing forehands from all over the court, and you don’t really know where you should stand exactly, because he’s just so fast and just turning around, hitting those forehands. Serve is great, one of the best in the game.

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“I felt a bit stupid returning his serves. I felt like I was slow. My anticipation was not there.”

Despite the disappointment of his early exit, Tsitsipas said that he was much better equipped to deal with defeat than he was last year after his swashbuckling run to the semi-finals, which included a win over Roger Federer.

“That’s life. I have learned to deal with it. Last year I wasn’t able to deal with it. I was heartbroken after my semi-final loss. This year is different. I’ll just keep going. We’ll win it next year. That’s fine (smiling).”

Although he was defending 720 points from reaching the 2019 semi-finals, Tsitsipas will remain at No. 6 in the FedEx ATP Rankings unless Alexander Zverev wins the title.

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'I literally can't do that again. That's unprofessional' – Williams suffers earliest Melbourne defeat since 2006

  • Posted: Jan 24, 2020
2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Serena Williams says she made “far too many errors to be a professional athlete” as she was knocked out in the Australian Open third round.

The 38-year-old American lost 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 7-5 to China’s 27th seed Wang Qiang.

The defeat means Williams’ quest for a 24th Grand Slam singles title goes on.

“I can’t play like that. I literally can’t do that again. That’s unprofessional. It’s not cool,” Williams said.

The seven-time champion in Melbourne beat 28-year-old Wang in just 44 minutes at the US Open in September when the Chinese player won only one game and 15 points.

That was not reflective of the ability of a player who has been a regular fixture in the world’s top 30 over the past 18 months and reached a career high of 12 after her run in New York.

This time, after initially flinching when serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set, she made amends in spectacular fashion.

Wang had the tools to hurt Williams and continued to execute them in a third set in which most observers would have backed her illustrious opponent to go on and win.

After briefly faltering again as Williams rallied, Wang sealed victory on her third match point.

“I honestly didn’t think I was going to lose that match,” said Williams when asked on her thoughts after levelling at one set all.

  • Emotional Wozniacki’s career over after three-set defeat
  • Barty eases into fourth round
  • Ruthless Djokovic reaches fourth round

‘I’m going to be training tomorrow’ – Williams back to work after shock loss

Williams, seeded eighth, came into the match on the back of winning the Auckland Classic and relatively straightforward wins over Russia’s Anastasia Potapova and Slovakia’s Tamara Zidansek.

Instead of those results laying the platform for another title challenge, they preceded her earliest exit at the Australian Open since 2006.

“I made a lot of errors. I didn’t hit any of those shots in New York or in general in a really long time,” Williams said.

“I just made far too many errors to be a professional athlete today.

“I’m definitely going to be training tomorrow. That’s first and foremost, to make sure I don’t do this again.”

Opportunities to equal Margaret Court’s record of Grand Slam singles titles are running out for Williams, who is in her 23rd year as a professional.

She has not won a Slam since the 2017 Australian Open, when she was eight weeks pregnant.

Williams says she still has the drive to win that elusive 24th title and believes she can still match Australian Court.

“I definitely do believe or I wouldn’t be on tour,” she said.

“I don’t play just to have fun. To lose is really not fun.”

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‘I trusted myself’ – Wang on digging deep to win

Wang grew in confidence after she saved three break points in the sixth game of the opening set. Her firm forehands began to trouble Williams, whose movement could not match her opponent’s.

Wang – who defeated current world number one Ashleigh Barty at the US Open before losing to Williams – broke for a 5-4 lead and then served out to seal the first set.

Williams was struggling to gain the upper hand as the unforced errors totted up – they would eventually reach 56 – and she was broken again when Wang converted the second of her three break points with a deep forehand winner.

The Chinese player’s form deserted her as she served for the match at 5-4, with Williams breaking back with a superb forehand winner at the end of a 24-shot rally. The American saved two more break points at 5-5 before eventually levelling the match in a one-sided tie-break.

The final set went with serve until the 12th and final game. Wang had wasted two chances to seal victory on Williams’ serve before she was presented with another, which was taken when the American netted a backhand.

“After the second set I was a little bit confused, but my mind always said I had to focus on the court, on every point and trust myself,” said Wang, who now faces Tunisian Ons Jabeur in the fourth round.

Wang dedicated the victory to her former coach, Peter McNamara, who died from cancer just weeks before last year’s US Open.

“I always dream about him,” she said. “I think he can see what I play today. He will proud of me. I miss him.”

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Fognini The Comeback King: 'I Make The Grand Slam'

  • Posted: Jan 24, 2020

Fognini The Comeback King: ‘I Make The Grand Slam’

Italian faces Argentina’s Guido Pella for a place in the fourth round

As far as Grand Slam achievements go, Fabio Fognini’s milestone moment slid under the tennis news radar earlier this week at the Australian Open. The 32-year-old Italian, like Roger Federer but not Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, became the 12th player to come back from two sets down at all four Grand Slams.

“I make the Grand Slam,” Fognini said. “I’m in the way of Rafa, Nole and Roger. Different one but it’s okay.”

The 5’10” Italian came back from two sets down in his first-round match against American Reilly Opelka to win 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(10-5). Fognini has also done it once at Roland Garros, twice at Wimbledon and three times at the US Open.

But despite having a history of memorable comebacks, it’s easy for Fognini to name his favourite come-from-behind effort. “Nadal US Open is the best one, for sure,” he said of his 2016 comeback in the fourth round in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The Italian might be somewhat of an expert at coming back from two sets down, but the veteran right-hander hardly has the process mastered. A player needs courage, skills and a little bit of luck to complete the journey back – and even then it’s still against long odds.

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Through the first two rounds, only four players – Fognini, Daniel Evans, Hubert Hurkacz and Taylor Fritz – have completed the ultimate comeback in tennis.

“When you are two sets down to zero, it’s in or out, I was more out than in… but I just tried to do my game as best as I can, no mistake,” Fognini said.

“It’s more than one thing for sure. You have to play really focussed because you have zero points free. If you’re missing one, you’re out. You have to be lucky, you have to be these kinds of things in one.

“Just try to play your best tennis and not think about the result.”

It’s much easier said than done, of course. And, like all things in tennis, experience can help. Fognini boasts a 21-13 record in five-set matches overall.

“I’m just happy the way I was fighting until the end. I was serving really well during the whole fifth set. I was playing better, returning a little bit better, especially on his second serve,” he said.

His comeback, unlike some of his past ones, had a finish line this year at the Australian Open. For the second year in a row, the tournament has used a 10-point Match Tie-break at 6-6 in the fifth, which Fognini also used on Wednesday night during his five-set win against Aussie Jordan Thompson.

The tie-break has been a player favourite as the atmosphere and the match bubble up to a crescendo. Roland Garros remains the only Grand Slam that requires players to win by two games in the fifth set. The US Open has used a fifth-set tie-break since 1970.

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Dominic Thiem didn’t have to use the Match Tie-break during his five-set win against Aussie Alex Bolt to make the third round. But the Austrian is thankful the season’s first Grand Slam has instituted the new rule.

I like it that way because I think if the match ends at six-all in the fifth, the crowd and the players, everybody deserves a Match Tie-break. It’s a great thing. It’s a really good tension in there. It’s great to watch, as well,” Thiem said.

The Austrian recalled watching Kei Nishikori and Pablo Carreno Busta slug it out last year as their match ticked past the five-hour mark. Nishikori won the Match Tie-break 10/8.

This dramatic, or this close, it will never get if you don’t play a breaker at the end,” Thiem said.

Last year, Wimbledon also instituted their Match Tie-break at 12-12 in the fifth set after Kevin Anderson beat John Isner 26-24 in the fifth set of the 2018 Wimbledon semi-finals. Two days later, Anderson was zapped of energy for his Wimbledon final against Djokovic.

It’s also fairer to the players,” Thiem said. “If you play a few matches, 20-18 in the fifth or something, your chances to play a great tournament at the end, they go to zero almost.”

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Russian Karen Khachanov played his first Melbourne Match Tie-break on Thursday night against 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier Mikael Ymer, advancing 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(8). Khachanov appreciated knowing that the end was near.

I think it’s fair because if you come to the point that you are six-all in the fifth, of course you can play until 22-20. But you had enough games before to try to finish it,” Khachanov said.

I think it’s good for the crowd, for the spectators, for us as well. We know that now is the super tie-break. You need to give it all, and whoever does it better wins the match and stays in the tournament.”

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