Paris Masters 2020: Medvedev beats Schwartzman to put London hopes on hold
Only Carreno Busta can deny Schwartzman—but has to beat Nadal and win title
The Race for London could reach its conclusion on quarter-final day at the Rolex Paris Masters.
The 28-year-old Argentine, Diego Schwartzman, could seal his debut appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals with one more win, and thus make the efforts of everyone else fruitless.
Fruitless for London ambitions, at least, though of course the Paris Masters itself is a prize well worth their continuing effort.
Should Schwartzman lose, there was still room for one more man to steal his thunder. If No9 seed Pablo Carreno Busta won his quarter-final and went on to win the Paris title, and then next week’s Sofia 250, he could just about overtake Schwartzman.
The Spaniard’s problem with that scenario was that his quarter-final was against compatriot and top seed, Rafael Nadal, and Carreno Busta was 0-6 in their previous matches, including straight-set losses in this truncated season at the Australian Open and Rome Masters.
But then the problem with Schwartzman’s scenario was a similar one. Against his opponent, No3 seed Daniil Medvedev, he had lost all three previous matches, most recently a tight three-setter at the ATP Cup in January.
Schwartzman began aggressively, knowing that the tall Russian could also maintain long, challenging rallies from the baseline. But after a hold apiece, he faced two break points, and a wide backhand did the damage.
Medvedev held for 3-1, and showed his new enthusiasm for stepping into the court to finish points overhead. By the time he reached 5-3, he had dropped only three points on serve, and then broke again for the set in swift order, 6-3.
Schwartzman seemed unable to make any sustained impact on the Medvedev serve, while he had to work hard on his own service games. So after being broken once, and then facing 1-4, he had won just two points in 12 against his opponent’s serve. A frustrated Schwartzman could find little response, was broken again to love, and Medvedev served it out to love, with an ace, after one hour’s play, 6-1
So Medvedev, who will now overtake the absent Roger Federer to move to No4 in the rankings, has put a spanner in the works for Schwartzman, though the Argentine remains the hot favourite to make it through. After all, should Carreno Busta get past Nadal, he then faces either Alexander Zverev or Stan Wawrinka, and possibly Medvedev in the final. And he would still have to run the Sofia gauntlet.
The articulate Russian admitted that he was looking forward to his 2020 London experience, after failing to win one match in his debut there last year. He said:
“I think it’s good I went so far here already, because it’s good preparation for London. It’s similar conditions to London, though no spectators unfortunately, but good to get used to it.”
He will next play either Milos Raonic, who beat one of the stand-out players of this autumn, 22-year-old Ugo Humbert.
The brilliant young Frenchman was ranked 57 when he won his first title in Auckland. Then with his second title in Antwerp, he rose to 34 and into the main draw in Paris-Bercy.
Now he was playing in his first ever Masters quarter-final, but with three long, tough contests in his legs: Nine sets, five of them tie-breaks, a total of seven hours, to beat Casper Ruud, No2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Marin Cilic. And all that after five back-to-back wins in Antwerp.
This would be another three-setter, with the two men sharing the first sets, 6-3, 3-6, courtesy of a single break. The third would be yet another tie-break, with nothing between them—except that Raonic had notched up 22 aces thus far.
The fast left-handed Frenchman stole the first point against serve and then ran the Canadian ragged with big precision hitting, but could not hold onto his small advantage.
Yet he strode around the court with real intent, urging himself on, and the Canadian double faulted to hand the lead back, 4-1. Two timely aces from Raonic, though, redressed the balance, 4-5: Could Humbert hold his nerve and serve it out?
Raonic played a superb 30-shot rally to hold off match-point, finishing at the net, and now saved a second match-point with a huge serve, 6-6. Another, and he had match-point. Now Humbert saved match-point, but a wayward backhand gave Raonic the chance on his own serve. Sure enough, an ace—his 25th—did the damage, 7-6(7).
He said afterwards, “I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave the court without giving it my all.” He will have to do that again in the semis: Medvedev has beaten him in both previous meetings.