May 17, 2022 1:41 pm

Australian Open: Diego Schwartzman said goodbye to Melbourne very early with a heavy defeat

Very soon the first Grand Slam of 2022 for Diego Schwartzman was over. world number 13 said goodbye to the Australian Open with a loss in straight sets against the Australian Christopher O’Connell, an opponent with very few previous victories on the ATP circuit and ranked 175th in the ranking, who celebrated the greatest success of his career at the expense of the Argentine, whom he overcame 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 and 6-4, in three hours and 7 minutes of play.

In the Australian noon, on the cauldron of Court 3, O’Connell, who entered the main draw as a special guest of the invitation, had a fervent support from the public, while Schwartzman yielded from highest to lowest. It was a match in which the Argentine did not take advantage of his opportunities when he was in control of the game, and when those chances slipped away, he could no longer regain control, with an opponent who grew in confidence and solidity as the games went on.

Diego Schwartzman’s setback against Christopher O’Connell; the Argentine suffered an unexpected setbackAndy Brownbill – AP

Schwartzman, who had just had a scare due to cramps in his first round match against Filip Krajinovic, imagined a duel that was not easy, even despite the wide distance in the ranking of one and the other. “O’Connell is going to be a good challenge. I saw him play several times and I like his style, he is animated, he goes forward, he has a good one-handed backhand. He won a good game in his debut, and with the people in favor and in his country, he is going to get a plus. But I like the challenge and we will be there to fight”, the 13th in the world had said as a preview.

Some of that was seen from the start, with the Aussie standing very close to the baseline, ready to play aggressively, well planted and willing. The start was even, but the balance tipped slightly on Peque’s side with a break in the seventh game. Schwartzman went ahead 5-3, and then it was 5-4 and his serve. The Argentinian had three set-points in that tenth game, but was unable to close them in time and lost serve with a double fault. O’Connell found a space there to get back into the game, and twisted the score in the tie-break, in which he won 8-6, after Schwartzman was 3-1 and 5-4 in the tie-break.

Diego Schwartzman's forehand, who said goodbye to the Australian Open in the second round
Diego Schwartzman’s forehand, who said goodbye to the Australian Open in the second roundAndy Brownbill – AP

The match did not start in the best way, and the first set had demanded an intense effort, with 84 minutes of hard battle under the sun. More experienced in this type of duels, a reaction from Schwartzman could be expected. But O’Connell didn’t give an inch, and the development began to change hands. The duel was even, with long rallies and few break opportunities. An unfavorable situation for Peque, who could not unbalance or disturb since the return. In the ninth game, he was on the ropes and the Australian captured his serve, to sentence the second quarter in 42 minutes 6-4. In such a close matchup, Schwartzman struggled to win just 38 percent of his second-serve points. The Australian took his only chance to widen the gap.

The match summary

Court 3 erupted in a duel reminiscent of the Davis Cup of yesteryear. Handily, O’Connell already had a vital advantage in his pocket. Schwartzman was trapped in a negative spiral, with frustrated looks directed at his bank, recriminations and gestures of not understanding what was happening. It was not at all surprising that he suffered another break in the third game. On the other hand, the Australian seemed to succeed in everything he tried.

There was one last chance to get back into the game. In the eighth game, Schwartzman recovered the break to even 4-4. It was a mirage, because the Argentine immediately went 0-40 with his serve, and O’Connell no longer hesitated. Another break, and serve for the most important victory of his career. The Australian got match-point with a smash, and sentenced it immediately, with a service winner to the “T”, to consummate a major surprise.

The celebration of Christopher O'Connell, who achieved his best victory
The celebration of Christopher O’Connell, who achieved his best victoryAndy Brownbill – AP

For Schwartzman, it was another unexpected fall against an opponent ranked below the Top 100. Last year, he suffered the toughest loss of his career against Belarusian youth Daniil Ostapenkov -no ATP ranking- in the Davis Cup in Buenos Aires. In addition, at the US Open, he lost to the Dutch Botic van de Zandschulp (117th), and also in 2021 he had said goodbye to the Australian Open with a fall against the Russian Aslan Karatsev, who was then 114th in the world. Due to the ranking of his opponent, this is Schwartzman’s worst stumble in the main draw of a Grand Slam, even ahead of the fall at the US Open 2016, when he lost in the debut against Juan Martín del Potro, who was 142 of the ranking at that time.

O’Connell, from 175th in the ATP ranking, steps on the third stage of a Grand Slam for the first time, in which he will face the American Maxime Cressy. At 27, the Australian celebrated his best victory against Schwartzman: so far, he barely had 6 wins at the ATP level. In the debut this year at the Open, he had beaten the Frenchman Hugo Gaston; last year, in Atlanta, he had beaten the Italian Jannik Sinner (23rd). Now, he gave one of the biggest impacts so far in this Australian Open.

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