For the first three games of his Nitto ATP Finals debut, Diego Schwartzman was in the lead against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic – but it all fell apart quickly after the five-time champion sank his teeth into the match.
Even half an hour after the match, Schwartzman sounded equal parts frustrated and baffled as he reflected on a lopsided 6-3, 6-2 defeat at the hands of Djokovic, who claimed 11 of the next 14 games after being down a break.
“I feel that maybe the score is misleading, or maybe not. I didn’t feel like I played such a terrible match for the score to be 6-3, 6-2,” Schwartzman said. “But at the same time, I felt like I was pretty far behind the whole time, except for at the start of the first set. So there are things to improve, there are things I did well and that I tried today.
“But just coming off of the court, I have a strange feeling because I feel that I didn’t do a lot of things wrong, and at some moments I played very well. But I was outplayed. I don’t know what more I could have done, or what other risks I should have taken, or what higher level I could have found.”
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Schwartzman took advantage of a nervy start from Djokovic, who is going for a record-equalling sixth Nitto ATP Finals trophy. After a spate of games littered with uncharacteristic double faults and unforced errors coming off the Serb’s racquet, Schwartzman surged ahead a 2-1 lead.
He stayed toe-to-toe with the top seed even as Djokovic broke straight back, and Schwartzman increasingly struggled to close out games as his opponent settled into the match.
“You feel that you’re playing well, and then game by game as the match goes on, it starts to get harder. And then suddenly you’re losing the match,” Schwartzman said, describing an experience many of Djokovic’s defeated opponents can likely relate to.
“At the towel, you try to think about what you can improve, or what you’re doing wrong… and I don’t know that I was doing a lot wrong. I don’t know if he was playing that great, either, but the games started slipping away from me after 3-3.”
Despite the tough debut, Schwartzman assured he’s determined to look ahead to the rest of his round robin clashes and keep making the best of his first Nitto ATP Finals experience.
“I’ve really been enjoying the experience and training really hard because nobody handed me a spot here, I earned it tournament by tournament,” Schwartzman said. “At this stage, I know I need to be at the highest level, so I’ve been training hard and I have almost my entire team with me here these past few days.
“But without a doubt I’m really enjoying my time here, and enjoying this spot that I earned. I watched all of yesterday’s matches and I enjoyed the spectacle of it and all the global buzz that generates around each match.”
There is still a chance for redemption as round robin action continues at the Nitto ATP Finals: Schwartzman will continue his Group Tokyo 1970 challenge against Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev.