In the men’s top 20, there are only three players who are shorter than six feet. David Goffin is 5’11”; Fabio Fognini is 5’10” and Diego Schwartzman is 5’7” (170 cms).
There are 10 players between 6’0” and 6’4” – said to be perfect height because it allows for a good compromise of power, size and movement. Rafael Nadal is 6’1”, Roger Federer is 6’1”, Gigor Dimitrov is 6’3”, Dominic Thiem is 6’1”, Pablo Carreno Busta is 6’2”, Roberto Bautista Agut is 6’0”, Jack Sock is 6’3”, Lucas Pouille is 6’2”, Kyle Edmund is 6’2”, Hyeon Chung is 6’2”.
And there are seven players who are 6’5” and above. Leading the ‘giants’ is Alexander Zverev, who is 6’6”. Marin Cilic and Juan Martin del Potro are also 6’6”, Kevin Anderson is 6’8”, John Isner is 6’10”, Sam Querrey is 6’6” and Tomas Berdych is 6’5”.
The reason were are getting into the tall and short of it is because of the big upset Schwartzman pulled off on Monday. Tennis is a game that is dominated by the serve – it is your starting point – and the taller players have a huge advantage in the department. The angle, the velocity and the power of their serves is several times the shorter player and if you can’t break, you can’t win.
But try telling Schwartzman that. The plucky Argentine is a full 33 cms shorter than Kevin Anderson. To get an idea of what that looks like, see the picture below.
The first two sets were a blow out – 1-6, 2-6. Anderson had too much power and too much momentum and Schwartzman (forgive the pun) kept coming up short. But then, he somehow turned it around to eventually win 1-6, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(0), 6-2.
He did this by simply cutting down on the unforced errors. In the first two sets, Anderson and Schwartzman were pretty much equal on the unforced errors count. But it changed radically after that. So while Anderson had power, the Argentine buckled down to play a game almost bereft of errors.
It meant that Anderson needed to keep going for bigger shots even as Schwartzman kept scrambling around and sending everything back.
- 1st set unforced errors: Schwartzman (9) - Anderson (10)
- 2nd set unforced errors: Schwartzman (5) - Anderson (8)
- 3rd set unforced errors: Schwartzman (4) - Anderson (24)
- 4th set unforced errors: Schwartzman (9) - Anderson (31)
- 5th set unforced errors: Schwartzman (10) - Anderson (20)
- Overall match unforced errors: Schwartzman (37) - Anderson (93)
During his up-and-coming years, the Schwartzman family sold rubber bracelets with shields, names and logos of popular football teams to help pay for travel expenses. So he knows a thing or two about dealing with tough times but even by those standards, he was in a pretty big hole after two sets.
When he was asked by reporters what was going through his mind after the first two sets, Schwartzman said: “Did you read David and Goliath? That’s why. I read David and Goliath when I was young in the school, and I just try to think of that when I see Kevin or the guys who are two metres (tall). I’m not sure how I did. I am saying that and repeating it, because I really don’t know how I did it! Obviously it’s definitely one of the most emotional matches that I can say I have played.”
By the end of the match, the crowd was firmly backing the Argentine too. After all, in a David vs Goliath story, do we ever really back Goliath?
“You know, it’s maybe when you’re not as strong or you’re not as tall as someone like Anderson, you can still win the match. I think that people like me more, as well, for that, because they were supporting me out there. The fact that he was twice as tall as me was a reason for me to try and remain.”
Still, if one thought Anderson was a big challenge, it only gets tougher. Rafael Nadal awaits Schwartzman in the next round. It is a daunting prospect but not one that fills him with fear.
“Always,” Schwartzman said when he was asked whether he could best Nadal. “Always I believe I can do. If not, I am not playing tennis. This year in the Australian Open, I played against him in the round of 16 and I won one set. Then I have many, many chances, break points, and break up in many sets to keep doing a good job against him. All the matches, I played against him I have my chances.
“So I need to recover well again, because to have that chances I need to be my 100 per cent against him, and more here because he’s always playing great tennis here.”
Nadal isn’t taking him lightly either. When he was asked about what he thought about taking on Schwartzman, he was clearly aware of the challenge that awaits him.
“No need to go back to the Australian Open. I played him in Madrid. He is world no 12 and one of the best players in the world,” said Nadal with a shrug. “I know it is going to be a tough match. I know what I have to do but it is tough to make it happen because he is so good. I will be at my 100 percent.”
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