ARGENTINE Diego Schwartzman played some inspired tennis only to fall short to number 1 seed Rafael Nadal on Rod Laver Arena in the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open.
Schwartzman was the first man to take a set off Nadal and sat at one set apiece before losing in four 3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 3-6.
Despite his best efforts, which included breaking Nadal several times throughout the match, the 24th seed said Nadal was quite simply a level above.
“I think I did a good job,” Schwartzman said after the match.
“I had the chances, but Rafa played better than me in the important moments.
“He’s really aggressive every time. He can play four hours aggressive … is not easy for me.”
The 170cm, 25-year-old won plenty of admirers with his performance and admitted by the time the fourth set came around after nearly four hours, he was “a little bit tired”.
“That’s why he’s (Nadal) one of the best in history, because he’s really good in those [important] moments.”
Nadal was forced to retire hurt, due to a sudden hip injury, in the fifth set of his next match against Croat Marin Cilic on January 23.
For Schwartzman, it was his best Australian Open to date, only trumped by his quarter-final appearance at the US Open last year.
A few days earlier on Margaret Court Arena, 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov was both equally impressive and disappointed as he lost to powerhouse Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a thrilling five-set match 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, 5-7.
In the teenager’s first ever Australian Open, the Tel Aviv-born Canadian led the 15th seed Tsonga 5-2 in the deciding set of the second round, only to give up the final five games in a match which lasted more than three-and-a-half hours.
Shapovalov kept an optimistic view on the match, keeping his age and experience in perspective after what has been an incredible 12 months for the 2017 Most Improved Player of the Year.
“I’m just going to learn from it and keep going,” Shapovalov said.
“As much as the loss hurts, you know, I don’t find it as a loss.
“I find it as an opportunity to learn. Hopefully next time I’m in this situation, I play things a little bit differently.
“I’m the type of guy when things don’t go my way, instead of sulking or getting mad, down on myself, I go back on the court and try to work twice as hard so next time when I’m in that position, I can hit some good serves, you know, just close the match out,” he said.
In the women’s singles tournament, Italian Camila Giorgi was looking to upset local favourite Ash Barty in their second round clash on Rod Laver Arena last week.
The world number 71 came up against an in-form Barty and was on the verge of a major upset when she took out the first set 7-5 in impressive fashion.
The 18th seeded Barty rallied and took out the next two sets and match 6-4, 6-1.
The match lasted more than two hours and saw Giorgi unable to match her best-ever Australian Open performance of making the third round in 2015.
Adam Kellerman began his wheelchair Australian Open championship on January 24 when The AJN went to print.
DANIEL SHANDLER AT MELBOURNE PARK