Diego Schwartzman, a little man with a considerable talent and an even bigger heart, could hardly have played better or given any more of himself – but it still wasn’t enough to derail the great Rafael Nadal in his Roland Garros realm.
Such are the nature of mini-victories over the 13-times champion that Schwartzman’s magnificent performance in ending Nadal’s 36-set winning streak at Roland Garros felt almost worthy of a trophy in its own right on Wednesday.
The diminutive Argentine had pulled their quarter-final back to one set-all and his attacking resistance was discomfiting Nadal to the point that the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd, whipped into a frenzy, could even dare contemplate an unthinkable loss for the god of clay.
Yet, as he always does on the Paris red stuff, Nadal at 4-3 down in the pivotal third set, somehow found an astonishing new gear, pulverising Schwartzman like a heavyweight beating up on a flyweight, and motoring to a 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-0 triumph in two hours 45 minutes.
With his final nine-game salvo, during which he lost just seven points, Nadal was offering yet another demonstration, as he took his unreal Roland Garros record to 105 wins and two defeats, that it’s going to take a superhuman effort to stop him taking his 14th crown.
The pair charged with halting the 35-year-old were Nadal’s old foe Novak Djokovic and Italian No.9 seed Matteo Berrettini, who were set to play with 5,000 fans allowed back into Chatrier for Wednesday’s evening session.