Schwartzman Tackles The World Cup
ATPWorldTour.com challenges Argentine player to create his own 'dream team'
Diego Schwartzman has a special connection to soccer. The Argentine, who is through to the third round at Roland Garros, was named after soccer legend Diego Maradona. Growing up in Argentina, soccer was more than just a sport -- it was a way of life.
"Soccer was the sport I wanted to pursue," said Schwartzman, who is seeded 11th at Roland Garros. "I made the right decision to choose tennis over soccer as a career choice because I'm a better tennis player than I am a soccer player, but I've always been in love with soccer, like most Argentinians are.
"My friends and brothers would play soccer on the weekends and go eat some barbecue food afterward. I wanted to fit in, so I played soccer. Argentina and soccer go hand-in-hand."
Schwartzman considers himself a soccer aficionado and knows the history behind Diego Maradona, the Boca Juniors star who captained his country to victory over West Germany at the 1986 World Cup.
"I have a good relationship with Maradona," Schwartzman said. "He says what he feels and he keeps it 'real' so to speak. What you see is what you get with Maradona. He's an asset to all Argentinian athletes.
"He's got a sense of humor, too. Before, he’d say 'hey Dieguito [little Diego], say hello to big Diego.' When I reached the quarter-finals at the US Open last year [l. to Carreno Busta], he told me I no longer go by Dieguito. From that point on, I'm also big Diego."
ATPWorldTour.com challenged Schwartzman to create his own "dream team" ahead of the World Cup, which kicks off on 14 June.
"Ouch, that's tough," Schwartzman said. Still, he wasted little time listing his ideal squad of soccer players:
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer (Germany)
Defensive rightback: Kyle Walker (England)
Centrebacks: Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina), Sergio Ramos (Spain)
Left winger: Marcelo (Brazil)
Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (Spain), Toni Kroos (Germany), Andres Iniesta (Spain)
Forwards: Lionel Messi (Argentina), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Neymar (Brazil)
"When it comes to naming my 'once ideal,' it's no sweat -- until I have to choose the midfielders," Schwartzman said. "The pool is deep when it comes to selecting players in the midfield; there's so much talent to choose from in that position.”
How about his choices of tennis players to fill soccer positions? Schwartzman had his own list for that as well.
Goalkeeper: Leonardo Mayer. "He can tend to goal because he's really good at blocking shots."
Right winger: Damir Dzumhur. "He's lightning quick."
Left winger: Horacio Zeballos. "We kicked the ball around one time back in Argentina and that's the position he played."
Central defensive midfielder: Himself. "I'd put myself in that position. I play like a No. 5; I run a lot and I'm a workhorse."
Attacking midfielder: Rafael Nadal. "Rafa is my pick for that role. He would lead the offensive charge with authority."
Right midfielder: Roger Federer. "You can't possibly leave Roger out of a dream team, right?"
Left midfielder: Novak Djokovic. "Nole is a natural for that position.”
And for the ultimate question: Who is the better soccer player, Diego Maradona or Lionel Messi?
"It's a tie," Schwartzman said. "You don't need to choose one over the other. Both are great players and two of the best soccer players that Argentina has ever produced."