Schwartzman: 'I don't know how I did it'

The Argentinian wore his heart on his sleeve, and fought like a warrior in a career of 14 years

Diego Schwartzman, second round qualifying, Roland-Garros 2024©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT
 - Chris Oddo

From Guillermo Vilas to Andres Gomez, Gustavo Kuerten and Juan Martin del Del Potro, South American men have created a lasting legacy that has been indelibly woven into the fabric of Roland-Garros. 

Lion-hearted Diego Schwartzman belongs on that list.

A decade after his main draw debut in Paris the overachieving Argentine has elected to call time on his career.

The former world No.8 bid adieu to the tournament that helped him build his legacy on Wednesday, 11 years after he first contested qualifying in Paris.

An appreciative crowd fervently sent him off in style at the conclusion of his 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(7) loss to Frenchman Quentin Halys.

Though he has said goodbye to Roland-Garros earlier than he would have liked this year, we remember a Schwartzman that frequently hung around until the business end of the men’s singles draw.

The architect of a five-year stretch from 2018-2022 on the terre battue saw him play to a 17-5 record in Paris, Schwartzman reached the second week in four of five years. He rubbed noses with the biggest names in the sport, and never hesitated when it came time to show what he was made of. 

At the peak of his powers in those years, Schwartzman’s warrior spirit helped him cultivate a passionate following among the Paris faithful.

Three of Schwartzman’s four Grand Slam quarter-final appearances came in Paris, as did his lone Grand Slam semi-final, which he reached in 2020 after defeating then-world No.3 Dominic Thiem 7-6(1), 5-7, 6-7(6), 7-6(5), 6-2 in an epic tussle. 

There were near misses as well. Schwartzman claimed the opening set against Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals in 2018, playing breathtaking tennis and led by a set and a break before rain halted play – and his momentum.

'I don't know how I did it'

To prove it was no fluke he took the opening set from Nadal again in 2021, and in the third round in 2017 he had Novak Djokovic on the ropes before falling in five sets, 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1. 

Not exactly the players you want to face when you make a deep run at a major, but Schwartzman will look back fondly on the opportunity he had to lock horns with the biggest legends of his generation. 

“There were very special moments here in Paris for me,” he said. “I didn’t have luck on my side in the second weeks here, playing against Novak and Rafa, but at the same time I can [tell people] in a few years that I played against them many times in the second week of a Grand Slam – many are not going to believe me, I think.” 

Diego Schwartzman, Rafael Nadal, Roland-Garros 2021, quarter-final© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Relative to the gargantuan forces of the men’s tour, Schwartzman is diminutive in stature – but far from it in spirit.

The passion for tennis never failed to ooze from the Buenos Aires native, both on and off court, and it is this element of his character that will be remembered more than anything. There was joy in his tennis, and defiance as well. 

“I think I did too many good things,” he said with a smile. “With my small body… when I’m looking back, I don’t know how I did it, being honest. Even now, I’m trying and I know it’s difficult to keep being competitive in the matches, but I think that’s the way.” 

Asked how he wanted to be remembered, Schwartzman didn’t hesitate to answer. Just like he was on Wednesday, even if it was in defeat: “Like a fighter. A good fighter who was ready to play the best tennis in the world.” 

As Schwartzman said goodbye to fans on Court Suzanne-Lenglen for the last time, the tears flowed. A player who wore his heart on his sleeve, he wouldn’t have it any other way. 

He will continue his career until he officially calls it quits in Buenos Aires next February. More magical moments are sure to come. 

“It was beautiful, being honest,” he said of the ceremony held to honour him after his loss to Halys. “I was happy in that moment, enjoying with the people. Tears coming out. 

“I really enjoyed the moment, and a few more are going to come. I already had tears in my bed when I did the letter [to announce my retirement], which I published to the people. I’m enjoying every moment and every tear is going to come, it’s for happiness and nothing else.” 

Diego Schwartzman, Dominic Thiem, quart de finale, Roland-Garros 2020©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT