PARIS (AFP) – Kevin Anderson will tower over French Open fourth round opponent Diego Schwartzman today but the big South African insists the Argentine’s short stature should not be interpreted as a weakness.
World number seven Anderson, at 6ft 1in (2.02m), faces 5 ft 7in (1.7m) Schwartzman, bidding to make the quarter-finals for the first time in Paris.
On paper, it should be straightforward.
Anderson, the first South African man to make the US Open final in 52 years when he finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal in 2017, has a 2-0 record over Schwartzman.
One of those wins came on clay in Nice in 2016.
At this year’s French Open, Anderson has fired 57 aces and been broken just twice while Schwartzman has just nine aces.
But the Argentine has won all three rounds in straight sets while Anderson needed four to see off Pablo Cuevas and Mischa Zverev.
So, when it comes to their respective statures, Anderson has no time for those in the sport who say that a player has to stand tall to be successful.
“What makes him so good is he’s one of the best returners in the game,” said the Florida-based Johannesburg native.
“He’s one of the best movers in the game. He’s one of the best fighters in the game. He’s a great ball striker from the baseline.”
Schwartzman’s compatriot Gaston Gaudio at 5ft 9in (1.75m) – was the last man under six feet to win a Grand Slam at the 2004 French Open, just a year before the advent of the era of Paris dominance of 6ft 1in (1.85m) Rafael Nadal.
But Anderson believes that Schwartzman, playing on a career-high 11th seeding, should not be written off as a contender at the Slams.
He’s right to be wary as the 25-year-old made the quarter-finals at the US Open and last-16 in Australia in January where it took Nadal to stop him in four sets.
“Historically, you would have to say that, in terms of results, the ideal height for tennis has been closer to around just over six foot,” said Anderson.
“If you looked at just Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, I mean, these guys aren’t 6’6, 6’7. There’s certainly been a lot more players coming through that way, but it’s not like the taller players are blowing people around that height right off the courts.
“I feel like if you look at somebody like Diego, no matter what universe we play tennis in, he’s always going to be really a tough opponent to play, regardless of your height.”
For his part, Schwartzman is delighted to have made the last 16 in Paris for the first time without breaking sweat.
“In all the Grand Slams it’s very good to be able to reach the second week having won in straight sets, you have fewer hours of play. I was able to do it fast, which was also a goal,” he said.