Tennis - ATP World Tour
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Marton Fucsovics on Friday became the first Hungarian to reach the Round of 16 at the Australian Open multiple times, defeating American Tommy Paul 6-1, 6-1, 6-4.
The World No. 67’s second trip to the fourth round at the season’s first Grand Slam ties his best mark at any major. Two years ago in Melbourne, Fucsovics became the first man from his country to make the last 16 at a Slam since Balazs Taroczy accomplished the feat at Roland Garros in 1984.
Fucsovics appeared the fresher player after defeating reigning Next Gen ATP Finals Jannik Sinner in straight sets in the second round, while Paul needed five sets in a four-hour, 19-minute triumph against 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov. Playing his typical physical brand of tennis, Fucsovics made Paul work for every point, leading to 42 unforced errors off the American’s racquet.
The Hungarian played a fairly clean match, working his groundstrokes around the court, striking 28 winners to only 25 unforced errors. He converted six of his 14 break points, ceding no breaks to Paul in his one-hour, 46 minute victory.
Fucsovics will next play third seed Roger Federer or Aussie John Millman for a spot in his first major quarter-final.
A lot of people ask me about my height.
How does being 5’7” affect you as a tennis pro? What do you think you could have done if you were taller?
My answer is always the same: I have worse problems than being 10 centimetres shorter than everybody else.
When I walk onto a tennis court, I don’t think about how tall I am or how much bigger my opponent is. I know there is a difference, but so what?
Maybe if I was 10 or 15 centimetres taller, I’d have a better serve or be able to hit with more power. But my height isn’t going to change. I’m not going to wake up the size of John Isner or Ivo Karlovic.
There are reasons that I might not have made it here, but they have nothing to do with my size.
Before I was born, my family earned an amazing living in South America. They owned a clothing and jewelry company that made them a lot of money. They had a house in Uruguay where they went every December and January to enjoy the summer. They had a house in the capital and another one outside the capital. They owned many cars. Life was amazing.
But things changed when I was born. My family lost everything. In the 1990s in Argentina, the government cut imports. My father kept spending money to try to get things from outside the country, but there was no chance and he started doing worse and worse and worse. It was terrible. My mom tried to get the material for clothes from China, but there was no way to get it in Argentina.
My family had no more business, no more extra houses and cars. Just me, my two older brothers, my older sister and my parents trying to make a living for us.
Because we didn’t have a lot of money, it was really tough to start playing tennis or any sport for that matter. We really couldn’t afford it. But I played as much as I could.
I was actually named after football legend Diego Maradona, so of course one of the sports I played was football. When I was little, my grandmother bought me uniforms from European teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona. The first team I played for, I scored a lot. I would go to the club to try tennis, too, wearing those same jerseys my grandmother got me. If the courts were full, I would play in a hallway with my father. We always used adult racquets even if I was little, because I never liked the kids racquets.
As the years went by, I realised that in tennis, most things depended on me, and not others around me. It would be about the effort I put in, and there was a charm about knowing I would be rewarded for the work I put in. I also was better at tennis than football, so I wanted to take it more seriously.
I started travelling to many tournaments with my mother. My dad would promise me that he booked us a nice hotel with TV, computer, Internet and everything that we needed.
Why are you lying?
I used to call him all the time to ask that. There was never a TV, and at almost every tournament we went to we had to share one bed. We stayed once at a hotel because a room cost only two pesos.
It was the same thing over and over, but we had no choice. This is what we could afford.
At one point, we were even selling rubber bracelets that were left over from the business my family had. We did anything we could do to get money to pay for trips to tournaments and the travel costs.
Looking back, it was a tough situation. But at the time, it was funny. I helped my mom selling the bracelets, and so did some of the other players. Between matches we would all run around with a bag of bracelets to see who could sell the most, and my mom would give them 20 per cent of the money. It was like two competitions in one — tennis and selling bracelets!
I sort of understood at the time why we did all this, but I didn’t feel it, because my parents were trying to work hard to let me focus on playing and travelling while they worried about the money.
When I was 13, I began to go on flights by myself to places like Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, and I would cry on the plane. I wanted to be with my family. But playing those events was part of my journey. And I know that even if those times were difficult, they helped me become a better competitor.
Also, when I was 13, a doctor told me I would never be taller than 5’7”. I know I told you that height doesn’t mean much. But back then, I was devastated. I didn’t know what I was going to be able to do well with my life if the doctor was right. I didn’t know if I still wanted to play tennis.
My parents didn’t let me get down, though. They told me my height shouldn’t influence my dreams. And luckily, when I was 15 or 16, I started to have many people around who tried to help me with money, travel, a coach, a trainer, with everything. At that point, it became easier for my family and me.
I was never a top junior — the only junior Grand Slam I played was the 2010 US Open qualifying, where I lost in the first round. I messaged my family that day that I didn’t know what I was doing there. But I don’t think about all of those tough times much anymore. And once I became a professional, I never doubted myself, no matter the odds.
I always had confidence in my game and my career. I always thought I could do it. Here I am now, competing with the best players in the world.
Knowing what my family went through taught me valuable lessons about the importance of family, and gave me a better understanding of how to look at the bigger picture when it comes to sports. Whatever happens in my career doesn't compare to what my parents endured.
But even all of that pales into comparison to what my ancestors went through. I have Jewish roots, and my great grandfather on my mom’s side, who lived in Poland, was put on a train to a concentration camp during the Holocaust.
The coupling that connected two of the train’s cars somehow broke. Part of the train kept going, and the other stayed behind. That allowed everyone trapped inside, including my great grandfather, to run for their lives. Luckily, he made it without being caught. Just thinking about it makes me realise how lives can change in a heartbeat.
My great grandfather brought his family by boat to Argentina. When they arrived, they spoke Yiddish and no Spanish. My father’s family was from Russia, and they also went to Argentina by boat. It wasn’t easy for all of them to totally change their lives after the war, but they did.
So from my ancestor escaping a train on its way to a concentration camp to staying in tiny hotel rooms and selling bracelets, I consider myself lucky. But everyone has a story. I’m not the only one who has faced adversity. It’s about not letting the tough moments drag you down, and using them as motivation to help you turn a bad situation into something good.
I never imagined my career being where it is now. But no matter what I’ve dealt with, I’ve always worked hard, and I think pushing through those hurdles has made me a better competitor and an even better person. If I can get this far, so can you. Believe in yourself no matter what, give everything you have and one day — even if you’re 5’7” — you can accomplish your dreams too.
- As told to Andrew Eichenholz, with reporting from Juan Diego Ramirez Carvajal and Marcos Zugasti.
When Diego Schwartzman and Dusan Lajovic faced off two years ago at the Australian Open, Schwartzman prevailed in an epic five-set battle. The No. 14 seed from Argentina was in no mood for another marathon in their rematch on Friday, saving three set points to beat No. 24 seed Lajovic 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(7) and book his place in the fourth round.
“I was so lucky at the end. Many times, I was not playing my best in the tie-break, but I’m happy to finish and go to the locker with the second week [result] here,” Schwartzman said in his on-court interview. “I think I was very solid, serving well, and trying to take every opportunity he gave me.”
Schwartzman didn’t drop a set in his first three rounds and conceded an average of nine games per match. On the two other occasions he’s made the second week at a Grand Slam without losing a set (2018 Roland Garros and 2019 US Open), he went on to reach the quarter-finals.
The Argentine will next face second-seeded Serbian Novak Djokovic or Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka. He’s 0-3 against Djokovic in their ATP Head2Head rivalry, but stretched the defending champion to a deciding set in their past two matches. Schwartzman leads Nishioka 3-0 in their ATP Head2Head series.
“I just know Nishioka because he’s my size,” Schwartzman said with a smile. “Nole is a big player, a legend of our sport… I’m just thinking to recover well and be ready for Sunday.”
Both players arrived wearing identical kits, but a stark contrast in form was evident during the first two sets. Schwartzman scampered across the court to extend their baseline rallies, waited patiently and attacked when given the chance. The Serbian felt the pressure and frequently overcooked forehands, committing 25 unforced errors in the first two sets.
Lajovic adjusted his tactics in the third set, adding more margin to his shots and bringing Schwartzman forward. Meanwhile, the Argentine’s serve deserted him and he was broken three consecutive times to trail 2-4. But Schwartzman is known as a problem solver and dug deep to get the match back on serve, pumping his fist after the Serbian sent a forehand wide in the seventh game.
He solved more challenges in the tie-break, bravely rallying from 4/6 and saving a third set point at 6/7 when Lajovic missed a slice backhand. A gorgeous backhand volley winner brought Schwartzman to match point and a forehand error from the Serbian wrapped up play after two hours and 13 minutes.