Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek were the champions in Paris, but what did we learn from two weeks of a drama-filled French Open?

Nadal continues to defy everything

Nadal answers GOAT question and identifies his most 'important legacy'
How at the age of 36 years old has Rafael Nadal done it again? How he has won the same amount of French Open titles as Pete Sampras won Grand Slam titles?
How has he won for a 14th time in Paris for the loss of just three sets, after hobbling and grimacing his way off court just a few weeks ago in Rome? How is he still so clutch in the big moments, such as when he was 6-2 down in the first-set tiebreak against Alexander Zverev? Or when he roared back in the fourth set to beat Novak Djokovic?
How can he ever be written off again?
And how much longer will he go on for?
Nadal is defying expectations, Father Time and history like few others before him. His performance level and fighting spirit continues to be astounding, and the fact he is halfway to a Calendar Slam for the first time in his career, at his age and with his recent injuries, is remarkable. Now two ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer in the Grand Slam standings, the GOAT-ometer has shifted a notch further towards Nadal.

Swiatek in a league of her own

Unstoppable. Unplayable. Unwavering.
Throw all the praise and superlatives Iga Swiatek’s way, she deserves it. There was enormous pressure on her as she went into the French Open on a 28-match winning run and she delivered, only dropping one set on her way to victory and producing another masterclass in the final (her average of losing 4.7 games per match over 10 finals is simply ridiculous).
The only shame is that there is not a true rival for Swiatek right now, but that should not detract at all from her brilliance. Her ball striking is superb, her composure and speed of thought is phenomenal, and if she keeps this up she could be the dominant force in women’s tennis for years to come. It will be intriguing to see whether she can translate her form onto grass, which has so far been her weakest surface and on which she says she has "no expectations". But with one more win pushing her to 36 in a row - the longest streak this century - all eyes will remain on Swiatek.

Victorious Swiatek poses for photos after winning second French Open title

Gauff takes another step forward

There were tears in her eyes after the final, but Gauff must be immensely proud and satisfied after her fortnight in Paris. It’s almost three years since she burst onto the scene with her remarkable Wimbledon run at the age of 15, and she has been making steady steps forward since. This was another career landmark for the 18-year-old, who didn’t drop a set before losing to Swiatek and appears to be in a very good place to kick on. "I definitely feel like this helped my confidence a lot," Gauff said after the final. "I just think even when I was 15, 16, 17, I felt like so much pressure to make a final. Now that I made it, I feel like a relief a little bit." At the age of 18, Gauff is still younger than Emma Raducanu when she won the US Open and is the youngest player in the top 100. She also made the women's double final and looks well placed to contend for more majors.

'Iga was just too good today' - Gauff on Swiatek winning French Open final

Ruud impresses

A one-sided final should not detract from a very good run from Ruud, who has made a sizable leap in the last year. He’s clearly most at home on clay (95 of his 149 career wins have come on the surface and so have seven of his eight career titles) and it will be intriguing to see if he can improve on other surfaces and push himself even higher up the rankings. He is set to move up to world No. 5 next week when the points drop from last year’s French Open.

Djokovic’s dropping points

This is turning into an annus horribilis for Djokovic’s ranking. In Australia he dropped 2,000 points as he wasn’t able to defend his title, in Paris he has lost 1,640 after going out in the quarter-finals, and at Wimbledon he will give up another 2,000 as there will be no points on offer following the ban of Russian and Belarusian players. Oh, and he might not be able to play the US Open as Covid-19 rules still state you need to be vaccinated to enter the country. So by the end of the season Djokovic could have only 360 Grand Slam points of a possible 6,000 (not counting Wimbledon) against his ranking. Yikes.
For now he is still world No. 1 for a record-extending 373rd week, but when last year’s French Open points drop on June 13 he will slip to No. 3, his lowest ranking since October 2018.
Also, what happened to Djokovic during the match against Nadal? Why was the level so inconsistent? His coach Goran Ivanisevic told Tennis Majors that the "body language decided" the match and that he did not "understand the body language and the lack of energy" from Djokovic. That sounds concerning after such a big occasion, and Djokovic now seems far less invincible than he did a year ago.

Djokovic v Nadal – more please

Once upon a time a 'Big Three' meeting was a common event. Not so much these days. The quarter-final clash between Djokovic and Nadal was the first since the same pair met a year ago in Paris. Although it was certainly worth the wait, hopefully we don’t have to wait another 12 months for the next instalment.

Watch entire incredible sixth game in second set as Djokovic breaks Nadal

Medvedev to return to No. 1

His tournament was eventually ended in swift fashion by Cilic, but before that Medvedev had looked in excellent touch on his least favourite surface. Encouraging signs for the Russian, who will reclaim the world No. 1 spot from Djokovic on June 13. Even though he is not allowed to play in the UK this summer after the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players, he still has a full grass schedule, starting with ‘s-Hertogenbosch this week and then followed by Halle (an ATP 500 like Queen’s) and then Mallorca. Points at those events will help prolong his stay at the top, especially with Djokovic not expected to play before Wimbledon.

Who can challenge Swiatek?

With another 1,570 ranking points in the bag, and those behind her all losing points, Swiatek has soared even further clear at the top of the WTA Tour standings. The world No. 1 has almost double the amount of ranking points as new world No. 2 Anett Kontaveit (8,631 vs 4,325). It’s a huge chasm and reflective of the gap right now between Swiatek and the rest of the competition. The switch to grass may see some changes, but who is going to come from the pack to challenge Swiatek? The mass early exodus of top-10 seeds at the French Open doesn't make it any easier to see a clear challenger.

Are next gen coming for the Next Gen?

The drawn out 'Changing of the Guard' was never going to be an easy transition, but right now the waters seem to be getting more and muddied each week.
At the top remain Djokovic and Nadal, but beneath? Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas have been seen for several years as the successors, yet still only have one Grand Slam title and five finals between them.
For Zverev to beat Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals in Paris felt significant, delaying the charge of the 19-year-old who had crushed him in the Madrid Open final a few weeks ago. Zverev also seems aware that others are closing in. "I hope I can win it once before he does - and starts beating us all,” said the world No. 3 after his victory over Alcaraz.

'Unbelievable, awesome' - McEnroe, Wilander and Henman react to Zverev beating Alcaraz

Tsitsipas, who fell in disappointing fashion to 19-year-old Holger Rune in the last 16 at the French Open, appears more vulnerable than Medvedev or Zverev, even though at 23 he is a few years younger than both. He has lost all three of his meetings with Alcaraz and is set to slip to No. 6 in the rankings on June 13. “These kids are going to want to beat me badly because obviously they are chasing,” he said after his loss to Rune, who is also on an upward trajectory. “I'm chasing too, but I'm at a different kind of position than they are. I'm hungry to beat them too. Now that they have beat me I want pay back.”
Felix Auger-Aliassime, now being coached by Toni Nadal, looks close to making his breakthrough at a major and Jannik Sinner may add his name to the hat if he can stay healthy. Could Dominic Thiem still be in the mix too if he can get back to his best form? The rankings are shifting, but who will come out on top isn’t getting clearer.

Rune ready to rock some boats

Having Holger Rune towards the top of the ATP Tour could spice things up a bit. The 19-year-old seemed to rile Stefanos Tsitsipas a bit in their last-16 match – Tsitsipas called Rune “very emotional” – and he definitely riled Ruud in the quarter-finals. Who’s next on his list?

Trevisan shines again

If you haven’t heard much of Martina Trevisan since she reached the French Open quarter-finals as a qualifier in 2020, you’re probably not the only one.
In between her surprise run two years ago and the start of this year’s French Open, Trevisan had only won 20 WTA Tour main-draw matches – and five of them came the week ahead of the tournament when she won her first WTA title on clay in Rabat. There’s clearly something about Paris that suits the Italian, who looks a very good player on the dirt, but can she now produce year-round results or do we have to wait another year to see her winning on a regular basis?

Fernandez a fighter but...

Chris Evert praised Leylah Fernandez’s “intangibles” and “intensity” after she made the quarter-finals, and she is an excellent mover and retriever, but does she need to add a big shot to the armoury to improve her game further?

More outbursts go unpunished

It was almost universally agreed that Irina-Camelia Begu and Andrey Rublev were both fortunate not to be disqualified for outbursts that could have caused injury – Begu slamming a racquet down that bounced into the crowd and hit a child, Rublev smashing the ball into the ground and nearly hitting the head of a court sweeper.
The question remains, what is it going to take for a player to get disqualified? The bar is getting higher and higher, and if a player is now disqualified for a similar act which has previously escaped punishment might they have reason to feel aggrieved. The line, though, has to be drawn somewhere, and soon.

'It's not a good look for the sport!' - Henman and Corretja discuss Rublev incident

What is the scheduling solution?

"If we keep treating ourselves like second-class citizens, we will stay second-class citizens,” was Billie Jean King’s verdict on the lack of women’s matches in the primetime slot at this year’s French Open (just one of 10 evening matches were women’s matches). Tournament director Amelie Mauresmo has said they will try to find a better solution next year, with the most popular solution seemingly to schedule more women’s matches in the evening and add in some doubles to the session as well. And the super-late finishes might need looking at too before a match runs on even further into the chilly night than the 1.15am finish between Djokovic and Nadal.

Cilic finds his form

There was a time not that long ago when Marin Cilic’s hopes of adding another Grand Slam title to sit alongside his 2014 US Open trophy looked over. But the 33-year-old could be back. He blitzed through the first week before destroying world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev in arguably the finest individual performance of the tournament. Although he was dumped out by Ruud in the semi-finals, Cilic’s return to form could bode well ahead of the grass season.
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26/11/2022 AT 09:03