Group Envy: Diego Braces For Tough Debut
Argentine starts Nitto ATP Finals campaign against Djokovic
When Nitto ATP Finals debutant Diego Schwartzman was recently asked to name the players he would want in his ideal London group, the Argentine was just wishing for anyone who didn’t like an indoor hard-court.
That didn’t quite play out according to plan.
“When I saw the draw being made, my friends started poking fun at me,” Schwartzman said with a wry smile at his pre-tournament press conference. “And the media did as well, because I had wished for the other group and ended up in this one.”
Indeed, if there was any group of players with the weapons and qualifications to make Schwartzman sweat, they all landed Group Tokyo 1970, which is packed with in-form indoor hard-court heavyweights like Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev, along with arguably the toughest opponent of all: top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who is going for a record-tying sixth Nitto ATP Finals trophy.
“They like more indoors than the other group, so it’s going to be difficult,” Schwartzman acknowledged. “They’re great servers, in addition to being solid from the baseline and they move very well... But we all know that either group would be really tough, with great players who have done well here and won titles. So any opponent in either group was going to be difficult.”
Without the 'draw gods' on his side, Schwartzman will be looking to make his own luck in London from his first match, which pits him against Djokovic in his group debut on Monday. The current World No. 9 is hoping to claim his first victory in six matches against the Serbian player.
“Against Nole, you have to always play your 100%. It’s hard to think of something else, or try to be tactically better than him, or try to do winners,” he said. “You just have to walk on court trying to play your 100%, and maybe if he’s not in his best day, you’re going to have a few opportunities.
“But always the first match is difficult for every single player, so I hope to have opportunities in the match and for sure I’m going to try to take them.”
Thankfully for Schwartzman, he’s already in ‘finals mode’ as he relishes the hush of London’s O2 Arena in his first Nitto ATP Finals appearance: lacking the dozens of fellow ATP players and coaches that accompany most ATP events, Schwartzman said, this tournament already feels like a major heading into finals weekend.
“When you first arrive to many tournaments, it’s full of people - difficult to practise, difficult to do everything,” Schwartzman reflected. “And here, we have a lot of facilities and it's [rare] to see other players, you know?
“That’s a really good feeling, because when you arrive to a tournament you’re thinking, ‘Okay, I want to be here almost alone, playing in the weekend [at the end of the tournament.]’ So that’s the first feeling that we felt, with my team.”
It’s a feeling Schwartzman will be hoping to recapture as he seeks his fourth career ATP Tour trophy - and the biggest of his career to date. But reaching new heights has been a theme this season for the Argentine, from achieving a new career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 8, to reaching three ATP finals in a single season for the first time, including his first ATP Masters 1000 in Rome.
“[Usually] at this time, I was always on holidays, and now I’m practising more than ever trying to beat the best guys on tour,” he said. “So I’m very excited, I’m trying to enjoy every single moment here, but also I’m trying to work really hard. I have the opportunity to continue doing a good season.”