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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Thursday June 9, 2022

 
Rafael Nadal

Before fully focusing on the grass, we're looking back at a brilliant Paris fortnight one last time.

Photo Source: Getty

Grass season is up and running across Europe, but here at Tennis Now, we still can’t quite close the books on Roland-Garros. So we’re emptying out the notebooks for one last look at an incredible Paris fortnight.

Tennis Express

Here are 22 takes on RG22:

1. Nadal latest miracle his greatest? What can be said that has not already been said when it comes to Rafael Nadal’s longtime dominance at Roland-Garros? A few things: for one, 2022 was different from Rafa’s first 13 titles in Paris because he was a true underdog this time. The oddsmakers knew it, the fans knew it, Rafa’s nagging left foot knew it, and yet, there he was, pushing back against all obstacles, driven not by a desire to win, but by a lust for competition.

What we’ve learned this year from Nadal – and the tea leaves – is that he can see the end of the road for the first time in his career, and that vision has driven him to even greater heights. Perhaps that is the only way we can explain Nadal’s incredible success in these last five months. He has won the first two Grand Slams of a tennis season for the first time and he is 36!


Sensing that the end is nigh, Nadal is reaching deep within himself. He has stoked a fire, and even as his body threatens to betray him, he is railing against doubt and the pain that threatens his endless spring in Paris. His 14th title was a work of courage and determination like we’ve never seen before. This isn’t the young Nadal running roughshod over the helpless, or the middle-aged Nadal, cunning and cutthroat. This is a 36-year-old version on a bum foot, getting injections to quell the pain before every match as uncertainty loomed, a black cloud hovering over his tennis career.

Who would have guessed that on Sunday the sun would be peeking out from behind the clouds in Paris as Nadal hoisted the trophy yet again?

2. Iga the great Great would be a big understatement. With Iga Swiatek, who became the youngest player to win multiple Slams since Maria Sharapova in 2006 on Saturday in Paris, it feels like she could be headed to some truly rarefied air. Not since Serena Williams in her prime have we seen a player so untouchable. It’s not a fluke, it’s a new beginning – and only just begun.

3. Ode to Simonne-Mathieu The best walk in all of tennis? Head out of the press room beneath Chatrier, turn left and swing past the Place des Mousquetaires, grabbing a savory gallette if the lines are short, before heading past the Orangerie and over to Court Simonne-Mathieu, the dreamy showcourt that is encased in a greenhouse. This writer watched several incredible matches there this year, including the Boys’ Singles final, which saw 16-year-old Frenchman Gabriel Debru win the title.

Talk about ATMOSPHERE. The place is absolutely dreamy, no matter where one sits (or stands).

4. Can Coco be a rival to Iga? Coco Gauff was handed a shellacking at the hands of Iga Swiatek in Saturday’s final. That was fairly predictable, given the sheer dominance of Swiatek, but what happens next is not. This could go in one of two directions: 1) Gauff could take the loss personally and set about shoring up her game and developing the type of weapons that can bother Swiatek, or 2) She could struggle to meet the demands of playing on “Iga’s WTA Tour” and fall back to the pack. Let’s hope Coco goes for what is behind door No.1. There is plenty of untapped potential in Gauff’s game. She can start with shoring up the second serve.

Swiatek v Gauff has the potential to be a great rivalry, but only if Gauff is up to the task.


5. Novak’s next move? It’s completely understandable that Novak Djokovic needs more time to find his best tennis in 2022. He’s been through so much, mentally, physically and spiritually. The world-beating Serb has never been one to be able to switch on his emotions and hit his stride. He needs things to gradually fall into place, has to take time to build his bullet proof game, and he was not able to do that in time to play Rafael Nadal’s foil this year in Paris.

We know he has it in him, but he just wasn’t ready to do it this year and that explains the relatively flat performance we got from him against Nadal in the quarterfinals. Grass has always been a tonic for Djokovic, and it very well could be again this summer, so don’t wrap up your GOAT debate just yet.

6. Ruud’s positive and negative Incredible to see Casper Ruud be the opportunistic fellow that found his way through the lower half of the men’s singles draw and into the final. History for Norway! A future Roland-Garros champion in the making! But a terribly conservative and doubt-plagued performance in the final for the Norwegian was a rough way to finish a dazzling fortnight. Did he idolize Rafa too much to show his teeth? Yes. Was he overwhelmed by the moment? Yes.

Message to Casper: Take this loss hard, and come back stronger. Don’t let it happen again.

7. What’s Holger Rune’s upside? Carlos Alcaraz has the bigger bandwagon, but my oh my has Holger Rune taken some massive steps over the last few months. By winning his maiden title and reaching the quarterfinal at Roland-Garros, the ATP’s “other 19-year-old beast” has landed firmly on the radar of pundits and peers.

This guy is going to be pure misery to face for the next ten years. And his drop shot is nearly as good as Alcaraz’s!

8. Top seeds struggle on the women’s side It was a very weird tournament for the women not named Gauff and Swiatek in Paris. Ons Jabeur, Maria Sakkari and Paula Badosa just didn’t have much to give, for whatever reason. A shame when we considere the massive strides that each had made in 2022 to emerge as second-tier contenders in Paris.

Barbora Krejcikova had her reason for an early exit (elbow), but the aforementioned did not.

9. Zheng Qinwen was a revelation In her Roland-Garros debut, and her second appearance at a major, 19-year-old Zheng Qinwen continued to turn heads in a big way. She took out Simona Halep in the second round for her first career Top-20 win, then snagged a set from Iga Swiatek in the round of 16. Nobody else could do that in Paris but Zheng, who possesses a menacing, athletic game that has nothing but upside.


It’s not hard to picture her in the Top-5 at this time next year. Yes, a lot will have to fall into place, and she’ll have to be mature beyond her years, but she could be China’s next big thing.

10. Diane Parry’s picturesque game It’s not just the aesthetically pleasing one-handed backhand, it’s the whole package with 19-year-old Frenchwoman Diane Parry. She just has a lot of style and a lot of talent, and proved to be a fun watch as she navigated two rounds at Roland-Garros, including one against defending champion Barbora Krejcikova on Chatrier.

The former junior No.1 has enough talent to be a star, and she spent all of 2021 playing on clay so she could become a tougher, more physical player. Roland-Garros could have been a stepping off point for a solid career for the Parisian.

11. Nadal in the clutch Think of this: Nadal, down 6-2 in the opening set tiebreak against Alexander Zverev in the semis, on a hot muggy day, the type of conditions that the Spaniard dreads. He’s perspiring about 2 kilos per minute and yet he still finds a way to pull a miracle and wiggle out of the set, saving the four set points with pure poetry.

The guy just oozes moxie. And the crowd just ate it up.

12. Stef fades, what gives? What to make of Stefanos Tsitsipas in Paris this year? He got by the difficult test of Lorenzo Musetti from two sets down in the opening set. That was impressive, and from there the bottom half was supposed to be his. What should have happened next was Tsitsipas demonstrating that he is the best clay-court player on the ATP Tour not named Nadal or Djokovic.

He didn’t, and it’s disappointing. Giving up ground to Holger Rune and the rest of the pack at his favorite Slam has to leave a bad taste in his mouth.

13. French passing the torch - but to whom? Two of the greatest moments of week one were the farewells that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon received. Not only were the matches a showcase for these incredible athletes who have done so much for French tennis, but also for French fans, who bring so much passion and so much undeniable vibe, that all you can do as an American in Paris is say ALLEZ and enjoy the ride.

Bonus points to Simon for gutting out two wins, and to the fans for their support of all the French players without fail. They are the official 12th man of tennis.

14. Dominic Thiem, that was fast Will Dominic Thiem ever be what he once was? It’s too early to tell. Check back at RG23 and we’ll see where the Austrian is at. This year he was easily defeated by Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien in the first round. Hopefully the three-time Grand Slam finalist can rejoin the top tier. Thiem was once thought of as a lock to win multiple Roland-Garros titles, and it is a shame that he has been besieged by injuries of late. Keep grinding, Domi… .


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Dominic Thiem (@domithiem)



15. Ode to Lenglen The best press seats in tennis are in Court Suzanne-Lenglen, right behind the baseline that is opposite the Grand Slam flags on the west side of the beautiful, uniquely shaped court. About ten rows up – you see reporters pinching themselves in their seats, it is too good to be true. A wonderful way to take in the clay-court tennis theatre in one of the most lively courts in all the land.

16. Diede the Great Make it six consecutive Grand Slams for Diede De Groot, who is following in Esther Vergeer’s footsteps rather remarkably. De Groot is the third player to win six consecutive major singles titles. And she is just one of myriad inspiring stories on the wheelchair side. One of the greatest things about all Grand Slams is the wheelchair events, and especially Paris, where the wheels make the coolest configurations in the terre battue – it’s abstract art!

17. Arevalo joy The first Grand Slam winner from El Salvador – Marcelo Arevalo – won his title alongside Jean Julien-Rojer on Saturday night after the women’s final. It was a joyous occasion that brought many who stayed and watched to tears. The pair saved three championship points against Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek, and Rojer, 40, became the oldest Grand Slam men’s doubles champion in history.

Doubles doesn’t always make the front page, but it never fails to provide compelling storylines. Just ask Kristina Mladenovi and Caroline Garcia, the unseeded French duo that brought Chatrier to live on Sunday befor the men’s final by winning their second RG title. 18. Night sessions - fair? Controversy over scheduling at a Grand Slam? Really? Say it ain’t so! Maybe Amelie Mauresmo didn’t do the best PR in her first year as tournament director, but don’t think for a moment that she doesn’t care about the concerns of women at Roland-Garros. Expect a solution next year. How about simply starting the night session earlier and making it a twin-billing with one men’s and one women’s matches.

Before we jump all over Mauresmo, let’s give her some time to learn on the job.

19. Leylah deserves props Great performance by Leylah Fernandez, still a teenager, and proving that her US Open final was no fluke by reaching the quarterfinals in Paris this year. The former junior champion may have gone further had it not been for the stress fracture in her foot. Even though she didn’t, the Canadian is still surpassing expectations.

20. Nadal and the Paris crowds This was the year that the Paris crowds embraced Rafa like never before, with the fullest throat and the warmest, most genuine support. Very reminiscent of the support that Federer has received from the French over the years. And it was beautiful.

Even better? Listening to the presenter read Nadal’s list of Roland-Garros titles as the crowd drowns him out is always a highlight. Deux mille cinq, deux mille six, deux mille sept, deux mille huit, deux mille dix, deux mille onze…. By this point you can’t even hear him any more as the crowd goes nuts while Nadal takes his warmups. Goosebump city.

21. Swiatek in 2022? Is it possible that Iga Swiatek doesn’t lose again this year and finishes the season with a record of something like 72-3? Those who watch her steamroll everybody she faces, whether she plays perfectly or not, are starting to think so. That said, grass is virtually different sport than clay-court tennis (though not as different as it used to be)... and so are fast hard courts, and playing in New York. But this – truly – could get interesting.

22. The juniors We already mentioned France’s Gabriel Debru. The 16-year-old won the boys title and looks like he could be a top pro. Keep an eye on him. On the women’s side three Czechs made the semis, including Lucie Havlickova, who claimed the title like a boss, in both singles and doubles. The 17-year-old has trained with Petra Kvitova and dreams of being the next impactful Czech in a long, long line. She’s well on her way.


 

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