PARIS (Reuters) – Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman outlasted Dominic Thiem in a brutal claycourt war of attrition to prevail 7-6(1) 5-7 6-7(6) 7-6(5) 6-2 and reach his first Grand Slam semi-final at the French Open on Tuesday.
Schwartzman had never beaten a top-five player at a Grand Slam and had lost his three previous quarter-finals, including one at the French, but the 28-year-old was relentless in his pursuit of victory in a gripping duel.
Both players appeared to be running on empty at times as they slugged out long rallies from the baseline for five hours and eight minutes on a windy Court Philippe Chatrier, but it was Schwartzman who survived to set up a clash with Rafa Nadal.
“Dominic is one of the best players in the world right now,” Schwartzman said afterwards on court.
“We are friends and I have a lot of respect for him. But this match was important for me. This was the third five-setter I’ve played here and this is the first one I’ve won.
“I think tonight I deserved it.”
It was a long and winding road though.
Schwartzman was close to losing the opening set when he slipped 0-30 down at 5-6 but reeled off nine straight points on his way to taking the set.
The diminutive Argentine saved break points in an energy-sapping 15-minute game at 4-4 in the second set, but Thiem pounded away and broke at 5-5 before levelling the match.
Schwartzman led 5-3 in the third set but was broken to love and then had a set point in the following game that went begging. A majestic drop shot at 5-4 in the tiebreak helped third seed Thiem move two sets to one ahead.
When Schwartzman saw three more set points disappear at 5-4 in the fourth, the last after a sensational running forehand winner by Thiem, it appeared he would again fall short.
But the 12th seed showed incredible resilience to come back from 3-1 down in the tiebreak and drag it into a final set.
Schwartzman looked the fresher player in the decider and Thiem, who was bidding to reach a fifth successive French Open semi-final, began to look ragged as he dropped serve to love in the sixth game with a netted backhand.
After so many momentum shifts in a gruelling contest featuring 19 breaks of serve, a Thiem comeback was still on the cards but Schwartzman was rock solid in the closing straight, sealing arguably the biggest win of his career when Thiem dumped a weary-looking dropshot into the net.
He will have to recover quickly as 12-times French Open champion Nadal awaits in the semi-final after he overcame dangerous Italian teenager Jannik Sinner.
“When it’s five sets, you have to have the fuel tank full,” Schwartzman, the 10th Argentine to reach the men’s singles semi-final at the claycourt Slam, said.
“I was perfect today. I think after two days (rest) I’m going to be perfect in the semi-final.”
He will go into that clash with confidence too, having beaten the Spaniard on his way to the final of the Rome Masters in the build-up to Roland Garros.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis and Richard Pullin)