Rafael Nadal "accepts challenge" to reach eighth US Open semifinal

Rafael Nadal "accepts challenge" to reach eighth US Open semifinal

The 18-time major winner kept his perfect record against Diego Schwartzman intact, but was pushed by the Argentine in three competitive sets.

Just when things were getting out of hand, Diego Schwartzman showed us why he is one of the sport's premier competitors.

Down 4-0 in the first set, the Argentine caught fire and leveled the set at 4-4. Down 5-1 in the second, he stormed back to draw even at 5-5. Although he succumbed to the three-time US Open champion, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2, he showed the world that he can compete with anyone.

Tennis is first and foremost a game of matchups. Each player brings their own unique style and skill set to the court. Like a snowflake, no two are exactly the same. Matchups are crucial in tennis, and It’s difficult to imagine a worse one for the  5’7” Schwartzman than finding Nadal across the net.

There is a reason the Spaniard has beaten him in all eight of their encounters. Nadal imparts more spin on the ball than anyone to ever play the game. This spin bounces the ball far off the court and far out of his opponent’s strike zone. 

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No point summarizes this disadvantage better than at 4-1, advantage Nadal in the second set. Nadal hit a high and heavy topspin forehand out wide to Schwartzman’s backhand; the bounce was so extreme that Schwartzman had to jump off one leg just to make clean contact with the ball. By the time he landed, Nadal had already struck his patented banana shaped down-the-line forehand for a winner . No one is better suited to remove the ball from the Argentine’s strike zone than Nadal. 

This match was never in doubt for Nadal, as it felt like a foregone conclusion. But even so, Schwartzman made it fun, forcing a straight-set match with no tiebreakers last almost three hours. He made Nadal suffer physically and mentally to earn the win. 

“It was straight sets but a big challenge,” Nadal said in his post match interview, “When he is confident, he is very difficult to stop, I am super happy how I accepted the challenge. 

Nadal will face a new challenge on Saturday against Italy’s huge-hitting Matteo Berrettini, a player he is yet to battle.

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