It was simply unimaginable. 18-year-old Belarusian Daniil Ostapenkov, who does not even have a ranking, defeated Diego Schwartzman, who is now ranked 15th in the ATP, -6/4,6/3. And not just anywhere, but in the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, in front of an astonished local crowd.
The first week after the US Open in men’s tennis is set aside only for the Davis Cup matches, and in the minor leagues. The 17 strongest teams will play only at the end of the season in the final round. Virtually every other team at different levels is fighting to take their country to a higher level. Tennis stars have had different attitudes toward participating in this week’s Davis Cup matches. For example, Casper Ruud, the leader of the Norwegians, who just broke into the top 10, fiercely battled with the tennis players from Uzbekistan and brought two crucial points in singles to his team’s treasury. Stefanos Tsitsipas from Greece refused to play against Lithuania due to injury, leaving the full responsibility to his brother Petros.
A team without top players
The Belarusian team went to the match against Argentina not in the best shape either, without both top-100 ATP players Ilya Ivashka (53) and Egor Gerasimov (90). As a result, Alexander Vasilevsky, the captain, could not even get the maximum number of players in the roster. The youth squad headed to faraway Buenos Aires with players born in 2000 and later. The oldest of these almost teenagers, 21-year-old Martin Borysiuk, is the 1,408th-ranked player in the world. The leader is 20-year-old Alexander Zhirovsky (1233), and two other tennis players are not even ranked – 18-year-old Daniil Ostapenkov and 16-year-old Eric Harutyunyan. Besides, Argentinians fielded the strongest lineup headed by Diego Schwartzman who used to be the 8th-ranked player in the world not so long ago and who is one of the best players in the world on the clay surface.
The draw resulted in an opening match between Schwartzman and Ostapenkov, who was chosen by captain Vasilevsky as number two. This was only Daniel’s second game as an adult. Before that, he made his Davis Cup debut at 16 against Dominik Koepfer of Germany and lost in two sets, 0-6, 2-6. Ostapenko does not have a single ATP or even ITF adult tournament under his belt. Until recently he played on the junior tour, his best ranking was 60th. At the same time, Daniel has never played at any of the junior Slams.
Shvartsman’s match against Ostapenkov should be a triumph for the Argentine. The local torso gathered at the stadium in Buenos Aires to see the Belarus junior defeated yesterday by one of the world’s best grounders. But it all went wrong from the start. The first set turned into a parade of breaks. By the score 5:4 in favor of Daniel the rivals exchanged serve three times. And then the Belarusian scored a break-point again, which he realized right away. And Diego had no possibility to get back – 6:4 in 45 minutes.
🚨 UPSET ALERT 🚨
— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) September 18, 2021
The beginning of the second set turned into a disaster for Schwartzman. He made one mistake after another, the ball was flying in and out. Ostapenkov led – 4:0, and Diego was in danger of losing the set to 0 in front of the Argentinean crowd. Through an incredible effort of will the Argentine national team leader won one break, and then took his serve – 4:2. But he could not do more – 6:4, 6:3 in an hour and a half.
18-year-old Belarusian Daniil Ostapenkov is yet to play a professional tennis match at any level.
He just shocked world No.15 Diego Schwartzman in straight sets in Argentina.
— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) September 18, 2021
Words after the match
I’m not going to make excuses. I acted way below my usual level. I had absolutely no information about my opponent, but that doesn’t change anything,” Tennis Majors quoted Schwartzman as saying.
That is how Diego Schwartzman lost in his native Argentina, and also on his favorite clay. And this was only Daniil Ostapenkov’s second match at the adult level, where he won his first and such a bright victory.
“I play a different kind of tennis at the junior level. Today was completely different. It was a very special match. I hope that at the next competition I can show the same level,” said Daniil after the match.
It should be noted that the lowest-rated opponent, from whom Schwartzman suffered a defeat, was American Ernesto Escobedo – the 227th racket of the world.
Some time ago, a graduate of the Minsk tennis center of Max Mirny, Daniil Ostapenkov talked about himself in an interview. According to the young man, he has been involved in tennis since he was 5 years old, although he enjoys other sports – soccer and basketball. His favorite tennis player is Roger Federer: “Because he’s a professional player, he plays the right way and he knows what to do at the right moment. He plays beautifully.” He lists patience as one of his advantages over his rivals. It seemed to be precisely this quality that played a decisive role in the sensational victory over Schwartzman.