The Hardest Working Man in Tennis

As Diego Schwartzman carves his way through the draw at the BNP Paribas Open it is easy to overlook the special quality the Argentine brings to the court.

We talk regularly on the work ethic of Rafael Nadal, the talent of Roger Federer and the mental toughness of Novak Djokovic. And so we should, these three have changed the game for ever. In fact, they are the benchmark for almost all the skills that tennis players need to develop in order to win matches. In the case of these three, a lot of matches that have resulted in a lot of titles.

But what rarely gets talked about is that these players are also genetically blessed. They don't give up much, in terms of stature, fitness, flexibility or speed. But surprisingly, in a game that now sees the average height of the top 10 sit at a lofty 6'3" even they are now at the lower end of the scale in todays game. 

Enter Diego Schwartzman, at 5'7" and 9 inches shorter than players like Alexander Zverev and Danil Medvedev, not to mention an incredible 1'3" shorter than John Isner. It is quite literally all uphill for Schwartzman every time he takes the court. 

At 5'7" Shwartzman just doesn't have access to the angles that the average player has. He simply doesn't have the reach the average player has and in each point must exert more energy, push harder and move quicker than all of his opponents. In short (no pun intended) Diego has no option but to do more work in every match he plays. 

This feat makes him being a regular member of the world top twenty, and a one time world number 8, not any a good achievement but an outstanding achievement. 

So what can we learn from the results of Shwartzman? Perhaps there is one clear take away for average player. This lesson is that movement matters, in fact it matters more than technique. This means consistently putting ourselves in the right place on the court, at the right time will allow us to compete against players with bigger serves, more topspin and faster shots. It makes you wonder what the relentless movement of Shwartzman in a 6'6" frame may be capable of.

Shwartzman does not have a serve, forehand, backhand or even a volley game that most tennis pundits would rate in the top twenty in the world. Yet his relentless ability to put himself in the right place at the right time could easily be considered top ten in the world. And again, he is doing this while giving up a significant height and reach advantage. 

Yet movement and one of its components, speed, continue to be the most overlooked parts of player development. Most of us still spend the bulk of our time perfecting our strokes, hitting ball after ball for only minor gains. 

So maybe we should all spend more time trying to play like Diego and less time trying to emulate Federer, Djokovic and Nadal?  

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