Defeating the ‘Big Three’ of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in Grand Slams is far more difficult than facing them in three-set matches, Argentine Diego Schwartzman said after he lost in the French Open semi-finals on Friday.
The 28-year-old arrived in Paris having defeated Nadal 6-2 7-5 in the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters but went down 6-3 6-3 7-6(0) against the 12-time French Open champion in his maiden appearance in the last four of a Grand Slam.
“It’s different playing against Djokovic, Federer, Rafa, these guys. It’s not easy playing them in five sets because you have to play your best tennis maybe for three, four hours, five hours. It’s not easy. It’s not easy,” he told reporters.
“Physically it’s very hard. Mentally it’s very hard. To improve and to beat the best guys on tour, you have to play them and you have to beat them. I like to play five sets. I feel really good today. Physically I was perfect.
“But, yeah, it’s tough to keep the level really high against these guys for maybe more than three hours.”
Between them the Big Three have won 56 majors, which are the only tournaments still played in the best-of-five sets format, with Austrian Dominic Thiem’s U.S. Open victory last month ending a run of 13 straight Grand Slam titles for them.
Schwartzman, who will break into the top 10 when the rankings are updated on Monday, would not be drawn into the debate of who among Djokovic, Federer and Nadal was the best men’s player ever.
“I’m not going to say who is better,” he said with a smile. “But I can say the most beautiful thing about these three guys is how different are these guys on court and outside the court. They are really different.
“One likes to play on clay, the other one on grass … You know, they are different. Also one lefty, the other one aggressive, the other one is sliding like nobody.
“For me, the best part is to play with these guys. I’m enjoying a lot because at this time I can play against these three guys in different tournaments, so I’m enjoying a lot to see these guys on tour and playing against them.”
Against Nadal on Friday, Schwartzman had 12 break points but could convert only three and he felt the Spaniard raised his level every time he put him under pressure.
“Rafa is Rafa. I think he knows how to improve. He knows how to practice, how to do everything,” Schwartzman said.
“After Rome, he goes straight to practice. He went to improve the things that he did bad in Rome. That’s why he’s in the final right now.”