FLASHBACK: Tsitsipas and Schwartzman played a dramatic clay-court match last spring in Monte Carlo.

PARIS—Watching Roland Garros from home, one can miss one of the tournament’s most hypnotizing rituals in favor of overstimulating commercials.

When the screen goes black, the meticulous grounds grew gets to work, sweeping away the marks and skids that players have spent the last set sliding into the court, finishing with an occasional setting spray of water from a hose.

For former finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas, the routine unsurprisingly carries a certain philosophical significance.

“It's a great feeling when you step out on a newly made clay court that is clean,” he mused after a 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over Roberto Carballés Baena. “All the lines are perfect. It makes for a very pleasing visual experience.

“But there's also beauty on when the courts are dirty and messed up and you can see all of the footwork and effort that has been put in and you have a visual of that, of how much work has been put in in order for you to succeed in what you do.”

“It's a spiritual type of surface, let's call it that way,” he adds with a smile. “It definitely is.”

Clay has long been Tsitsipas’ most well-suited surface; beyond his near-miss against Novak Djokovic in the 2021 final, he has long played his best tennis on the manicured clay of Monte Carlo, winning back-to-back titles in 2021 and 2022.


“I played on this surface since I started playing tennis. Those rituals, I have seen them over and over again. It's kind of ingrained in me, and it's part of my identity.”

Despite an underwhelming European swing, Tsitsipas appears to be playing into form as he earned his 20th Roland Garros main-draw victory on Wednesday. After a tense second set against Carballés Baena, the No. 5 seed clinched the tiebreaker and emerged as fresh as the newly-swept Suzanne Lenglen Court to enjoy a decisive finish.

“It’s just like in life,” he said in his post-match press conference. “You let the old pass and you just start with the new.”

His next opponent, Diego Schwartzman, arrived in Paris in as much need of something new as any man in the field; the former No. 8 had lost his last five matches and risks dropping out of the Top 100 after this tournament.

While the terre battue has helped revive some of his best tennis, the Argentine was less eager to wax poetic about the courts on which he has reached the third round six out of the last seven years.


“Here, yeah, between sets, between matches, they make the court and everything is different,” the 30-year-old said after defeating Nuno Borges, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-3. “But sometimes you feel good and sometimes not. To be honest, the last few weeks I play on clay and for me were not the best!

“So here always my feeling with the ball, it's very nice even when I lose matches, so that's great for me. One more time I'm feeling great here…It's just clay. Every single country try to have the best clay courts. Here are a little bit better doing that.”

Still, El Peque has shown flashes of his old form, to the delight of the French crowds. A five-set thriller against No. 32 seed Bernabe Zapata Miralles set the stage for a more emphatic second-round performance—booking him a rematch against Tsitsipas, who leads their head-to-head, 4-2.

Their last clay-court meeting came last spring in Monte Carlo, where Schwartzman led the Greek 4-0 in the final set before Tsitsipas powered back.

“Always it's emotional to play against the big guys in these kind of tournaments, in a big court with a lot of people watching that match,” said Schwartzman.

“My level a few weeks ago, it was not the best to play against these kind of guys on tour. It's great for me to already win two matches and arrive to this match with two matches on my body. I hope to do well and be ready for the challenge.”

With a clean court in waiting, both appear ready to do all they can to leave the last mark on Friday.