Diego Schwartzman has just enjoyed his best season on the ATP Tour. During his 2020 campaign, he recorded a win over Rafael Nadal, reached the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final and the Roland Garros semi-finals, broke into the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings and qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals… all of which he achieved for the first time in his career. But the Argentine is not one to rest on his laurels and so he now has some new goals.
“I broke through a barrier [beating Nadal]. Now I can retire saying that I beat him,” said Schwartzman, current World No. 9, in an extensive interview with Argentina’s La Nacion Magazine. “Now my outstanding goals are to beat Roger [Federer] once, ‘Nole’ once and then to win more titles.”
While coveting victory over the members of the Big 3, he does not hide his admiration for them. “I would take all of their shots. They make up the ideal player. I have had some very good years, 2020 was the best and you ask yourself, ‘How is it possible that these guys have been having seasons thousands of times better than mine since they were 18 and they repeat it every year?’”
Inspired by the consistency of the Big 3, ‘El Peque’ will be bidding in 2021 to maintain the standard of his last season. But just as important to him as fighting to improve is keeping his feet on the ground. “[In tennis], more than selfishness, there’s solitude,” Schwartzman explained. “I have changed my personality a little through being alone. But I think basically I’m still the same. If I ever change, I hope the people around me tell me so.”
Remembering his roots and being mindful of the sacrifices he has made have helped the Argentine to remain the same. His path to the top of the ATP Tour, overcoming countless obstacles as well as the economic struggles of his family, also provided a talking point, both with ‘El Peque’ and with his father Ricardo, who remembered the day when he had to sell a Ford Taunus 2.3 to pay for Diego’s trip to a youth tournament in Cordoba.
“As a boy I never realised how little my family had,” Diego remembered. “It would have affected me much more or maybe I even would have stopped playing. Being more aware, I would have thought ‘What is all this they’re doing for me? Are they crazy?’”
Schwartzman spoke about his past, but also his future. He even touched upon his dreams once he retires from the game. “I’d like to be involved in politics to help make sport more federal in Argentina and for the provinces to have better representation.” He also admitted his greatest fears. The 28-year-old right-hander used to be scared of spiders and the dark, but now he is scared of death. He also revealed that he still cries today over the passing of football legend, friend and mentor Diego Maradona, whom he was named after.
“When I finished a big match or, above all, a bad one, I would receive an audio message from him. He sent me a lot in the finals I lost. He would say, ‘Penalties are missed by the person who takes them. Finals are lost by those that have the courage to get there and play them.’ When I lost to Nadal at Roland Garros in 2018, he said, ‘Copy everything you can from the best, but never imitate them. Everyone is unique’. He was unique.”
It seems that Diego, increasingly standing out as one of the most genuine players on Tour, has followed the advice of one of his idols to the letter.