Diego Schwartzman: Returning fire
Set to make his Laver Cup debut for Team World in Chicago, Diego Schwartzman is proving that with a big heart anything is possible
Schwartzman has made a remarkable rise in the past year, reaching two Grand Slam quarterfinals to achieve a career-high ranking of No.11.
Schwartzman, 25, who led the tour in return games won last season, will make his Laver Cup debut for Team World in Chicago in September. With his lighting speed and determined attitude, there are many reasons the Argentine will be keenly watched in September as he joins John McEnroe’s Team World.
Defying the odds
Standing at 170 centimeters (5’7”), Diego Schwartzman is currently the shortest man inside the world’s top 100 and the highest-ranked player with his height since 1981. His nickname is ‘El Peque’, which translates to ‘the short one’ in Spanish.
Schwartzman loved tennis from a young age but at 13 considering quitting when a doctor told him he would never grow taller than 5’7”. “He told me he wasn’t going to do anything well in life if the doctor was right,” his mother Silvana related to ATPWorldTour.com. “I told Diego he was wrong and his height shouldn’t have an influence on his dreams because since the day he was born, I knew he would become something special. I pushed him to keep fighting.”
Diego and Goliath
David and Goliath is arguably the world’s most famous underdog story – and a personal favorite of Schwartzman’s. “I read it when I was young in school, and I just try to think (of) that. When you’re not as strong or you’re not as tall … you can still win the match.”
Football shaped his journey
Schwartzman was baptized in honor of Argentine football legend Diego Maradona and his family sold rubber bracelets featuring names and logos of popular football teams at tournaments when he was a junior to help fund his tennis dream. Not surprisingly, playing football is one of his hobbies.
Unable to afford to travel widely on the ITF Junior circuit, instead Schwartzman competed in ITF Futures events closer to home. “(I was) 15 or 16 and every guy I played was 25 or maybe sometimes 10 years more than me. I think I improved a lot because you have no chance if you don’t,” Schwartzman recalled.
Fearless against the world’s best players
I have never entered a court just to enjoy the match. I was always wanting to win. – Diego Schwartzman
Schwartzman was the only player to win a set against eventual champion Rafael Nadal in Paris this year. He also took a set off Nadal in the Australian Open fourth round in January, and last year upset 2014 champion Marin Cilic en route to the US Open quarterfinals. “I have never entered a court just to enjoy the match. I was always wanting to win. (Even) against the top five players, I said it’s always a match I can win.”
Inspired by his peers
Rafael Nadal is Schwartzman’s favorite player – but Argentine compatriot Juan Monaco has had the biggest impact. “He was the biggest influence for me. When I was 15 and 16 we practiced whenever he was in Argentina,” Schwartzman said of the former world No.10. “After a few years I started to be with him in the same tournaments, maybe playing doubles. He was really nice to me, like a big brother. I am really grateful to him.” Another former Argentine pro, three-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Juan Ignacio Chela, is now his coach.
Schwartzman and the Laver Cup
“I am so honored to be part of Team World for Laver Cup, and to have the chance to play with such huge figures in our sport, including of course my fellow Argentine, Juan Martin.
“Playing as part of a team always brings a different kind of intensity and I’m very excited to join Team World and will do my best to win the Laver Cup.”