PARIS (AP) — As Diego Schwartzman played through the wind and rain, and into the dark of night, at the French Open, contesting a total of 376 points spread out across five sets and 5 hours, 8 minutes, he knew it would be difficult to put away Dominic Thiem.
Schwartzman knew, too, of course, just how much it would mean to finally win a Grand Slam quarterfinal after failing in three previous tries.
And so, as he kept wasting chances and kept letting sets slip away Tuesday night, Schwartzman yelled at himself or at his coaches, put his hands on his hips or smirked at his mistakes. Then, two points from defeat against Thiem, the U.S. Open champion and two-time runner-up at Roland Garros, Schwartzman found his way and emerged with a 7-6 (1), 5-7, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory Tuesday by taking the last four games.
“I was just so nervous, because I saw the chance today,” said the 12th-seeded Schwartzman, a 28-year-old from Argentina.
He called his advancement into his first major semifinal “a big step.”
“At the end, this night, I deserved to win,” Schwartzman said with a chuckle.
Thiem said as much, too, about his friend after a grueling contest in which more than 100 of the points lasted at least nine strokes — frequently going past 20 or even 30 shots.
Schwartzman broke to go up 4-2 in the fifth when Thiem netted a backhand, and again to end it, when Thiem put two drop shots into the net.
The whole thing could have been over much sooner at Court Philippe Chatrier, where the new $55 million retractable roof was left open even though it rained right before the match began and occasionally during play.
Schwartzman was two points from taking the second set. He was one point from grabbing the third. But Thiem kept fighting back and eventually was two points from winning the match while Schwartzman served at 6-5 in the fourth, then again at 5-all in that set’s tiebreaker.
“To be honest, I was over the limit today,” said Thiem, who won his first Grand Slam title in New York in a fifth-set tiebreaker less than a month ago and was pushed to five sets in his fourth-round match in Paris.
The 27-year-old from Austria described himself as “physically and mentally on the edge” on Tuesday.
“To win that match, I should have done it in four,” said Thiem, who was trying to become only the fourth man in the Open era, which began in 1968, to get to at least the semifinals in Paris for five consecutive years. “In the fifth set, he was just a little more fresh and better than me.”
Schwartzman next will face 12-time champion Rafael Nadal or 19-year-old Jannik Sinner of Italy. Their quarterfinal was scheduled for later Tuesday.
Schwartzman beat Nadal at a clay-court tuneup event in Rome last month.
Much earlier Tuesday, this tournament of upsets produced as surprising a women’s semifinalist as could be: Nadia Podoroska, a 23-year-old from Argentina who is ranked 131st and became the first female qualifier to get to the final four at Roland Garros in the Open era.
When she finished beating No. 3 seed Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-4, Podoroska tossed her racket overhead and jutted her arms in the air.
Afterward, she was asked whether she was pinching herself to make sure it wasn’t all merely a dream.
“No,” Podoroska replied. “I don’t want to wake up.”
In the semifinals, she could face another qualifier in Martina Trevisan of Italy, who also had not won a main draw Grand Slam match before this tournament. Trevisan faced unseeded 19-year-old Iga Swiatek of Poland later Tuesday.
The other women’s quarterfinals are Wednesday: No. 4 seed Sofia Kenin against Danielle Collins in an all-American matchup, and No. 7 Petra Kvitova against Laura Siegemund.
Collins won her quarterfinal Tuesday against 30th-seeded Ons Jabeur 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Podoroska was only the third qualifier to get to the women’s semifinals at any major tournament in the Open era, and the first since Alexandra Stevenson at Wimbledon in 1999.
And to think: Podoroska, who is from the same city in Argentina as soccer superstar Lionel Messi, said she considered quitting tennis altogether a couple of years ago after “too many injuries,” including to her right wrist.
She was off the tour for eight months; her ranking dropped; she didn’t have enough money to travel to tournaments; she split with a coach she’d been working with for a decade.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Podoroska said.
She stuck with it, though, and now has a new team around her, based in Spain. And, by far, the best results of her career.
Svitolina, though, blamed herself for this outcome.
“Lots of things were not going my way,” Svitolina said. “I was not 100 percent mentally on it today, and that was really disappointing.”
AP Tennis Writer Fendrich reported from Washington; AP Sports Writer Pugmire reported from Paris.