Let’s be real, you can’t stop Iga Swiatek. And the past few months have showed us, not many are capable containing her, not even for a set.
With that, two weeks of Roland Garros have come and gone, with the world’s top player (again) dominating headlines.
But much more went down in Paris. Here are our final thoughts from all the terrific action:
If we were handing out grades, Iga Swiatek would of course receive an A. Runner-up Coco Gauff wouldn’t be far behind. What other player would earn your highest mark?
Jason Juzwiak: Out of a number of contenders who Courtney and Alex will celebrate, I will give my top scores to Daria Kasatkina. After sliding from the Top 10 in 2018 to outside the Top 60 in the next two seasons, her resurgence last year was heartening, though I was curious if it would hold given her haphazard ranking path. The good news is Kasatkina stayed motivated and focused in 2022, and she came into the major on her best surface with confidence. Her reward was a first Grand Slam semifinal.
Alex Macpherson: Late bloomers might not make for the easy headlines of teen prodigies, but their stories are no less inherently captivating. Few would have expected Martina Trevisan to repeat her surprise 2020 quarterfinal run. The Italian spent 2021 struggling to adjust to the main tour. But she's come through worse, especially early in her career when she spent four years sidelined as she battled anorexia. Her game is there, anchored around a heavy lefty forehand. Trevisan, 28, showed that in spades over the past three weeks, putting together a 10-match winning streak that took her from her first title, in Rabat, to the semifinals in Paris.
Courtney Nguyen: Let’s give it up for Zheng Qinwen, the only player to take a set off Swiatek in the tournament. And this wasn’t an instance of Swiatek playing a poor set and gifting it to the 19-year-old. As the World No.1 said afterward, she was befuddled. “It wasn't easy to find solutions and to find other tactics and to do something differently because I wasn't sure what I was doing wrong.”
Zheng has been a player to watch for more than 12 months, but her powerful groundstrokes and threatening game finally got a showcase in Paris when she ousted Simona Halep and Alizé Cornet to make her first Round of 16 at a Slam. It was the sort of run that announces a player on tour.
More from Roland Garros
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- Twitter takeover: Relive Swiatek's winning French Open performance
- Get the Gear: What Swiatek wore during her French Open title run
- Social reaction: 'What a number one we have!'
- Champions Corner: Swiatek in search of new goals after French Open triumph
- Champions Corner: Garcia, Mladenovic enjoy unexpected surprise in Paris
In retrospect, how big of a surprise was it that Gauff reached the final?
Juzwiak: Moderate. As Gauff herself admitted after reaching the final, “I hadn't had the best results going into this.” This was her first final of the year, and she had not made a semifinal since January, so the timing was a bit surprising. But Gauff’s steady progress indicated Grand Slam finals at some point, and her making it out of the unpredictable bottom half made as much sense as anyone else. It already feels like a no-brainer that Gauff has this on her resume, with more to come.
Macpherson: Not a surprise to me. I had Gauff penciled in for the semifinals from the off, and once Ons Jabeur crashed out on the first day, Gauff immediately became my pick for the final. This season, Gauff, 18, has demonstrated real consistency, taking losses only against players who have been ranked in the Top 20. There's still work to do before she can be a true challenge to the highest level on tour, as her final defeat by Swiatek showed, but Gauff's rate of progress continues to be steady. It felt like the right time for this milestone in her career.
Nguyen: Gauff did not lose a set until the final and played nerveless, free-flowing tennis. That’s not surprising in itself, but Gauff did not have an encouraging clay season before Paris. Last year she came into Roland Garros off a semifinal run in Rome and a title in Parma. This year she did not make it past the Round of 16 at any clay event. Yet, unencumbered by the weight of expectation -- and reveling in her graduation from high school -- she navigated a tricky draw with wins against Kaia Kanepi, Elise Mertens, Sloane Stephens and Martina Trevisan. It was veteran-esque.
Nine of the Top 10 players fell before the fourth round. Which upset surprised you the most?
Juzwiak: Out of the more open bottom half, I predicted Ons Jabeur to extend her excellent clay-court season and go deep. After winning Madrid and reaching finals in Rome and Charleston, the last thing I expected from Jabeur was a first-round loss from a set up, even against Magda Linette, who now has three Top 10 wins, all at majors. Nevertheless, do not let one off day negate the strides Jabeur has made in 2022, where she is in contention for the No.2 ranking.
Macpherson: Like Jason, I did not expect Jabeur's brilliant clay swing to come to a premature halt in the first round, but I did wonder whether she was ready to be the favourite to reach the final from the bottom half considering she had never gone beyond the quarterfinals of a major before. The biggest surprise for me wasn't the loss of a Top 10 player, but former champion Simona Halep's 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 defeat at the hands of Zheng Qinwen. The 19-year-old's potential wasn't in doubt to me, but between her lack of clay form coming in, and the way Halep had handled her at the Australian Open, I thought she wasn't ready. I was wrong.
Nguyen: The shock of Jabeur bowing out just hours into the tournament was seismic. And when you look ahead at what her draw could have been like -- Trevisan emerged from her quarter as a semifinalist -- it’s a tough pill to swallow for the Madrid champion. Then again, with the way Swiatek was playing, would it have ultimately mattered?
What was your most memorable match from this year’s event?
Juzwiak: After some recent thrillers, former World No.1 Angelique Kerber seems like more of a fan favorite than ever. Accordingly, a raucous crowd cheered Kerber on to an engrossing first-round comeback against Magdalena Frech. The three-time Grand Slam champion found some of her vintage best down the stretch while also saving two match points. “I left my heart on court,” Kerber said afterward, and the applause in person and on social media proved that everyone felt it as well, setting a captivating tone for the rest of the tournament.
Macpherson: Angelique Kerber is a treasure. Two days after winning the longest final of the year (which included a fantastic match point) in Strasbourg against Kaja Juvan, she brought the same warrior spirit to Paris in her 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 first-round win against Magdalena Frech. Any list of the best WTA matches over the past decade would feature Kerber disproportionately. It was a marvel to see her add to it at the age of 34, on her least favourite surface, battling both fatigue and the kind of defensive, no-pace game style she has historically struggled with.
Nguyen: Jil Teichmann celebrated her first third round at a major by edging Victoria Azarenka 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) to make the Round of 16. The match would go down as the longest Grand Slam match of the season at 3 hours and 18 minutes. Azarenka led by a set and a break but could not close out the spirited efforts from the Swiss, who rallied the crowd and frustrated Azarenka as the match went down to the wire. Azarenka served for the match late in the third set, but Teichmann forced her into a 10-point tiebreak and played it perfectly to seal her spot in the second week.
Who’s the one player we did not hear much from on clay that you expect to flourish on the grass courts?
Juzwiak: It has been a rough year for Karolina Pliskova, who missed the first two months with a hand injury and is only 6-8 since returning. The weapons of the powerful Czech, though, can turn on at a moment’s notice, and she’s due a big result. Pliskova was a Wimbledon finalist last year, and with her All-England Club conqueror Ashleigh Barty retired, perhaps the grass will kickstart her season in a big way.
Macpherson: Technically, we did hear from Charleston champion Belinda Bencic on clay -- but not on red clay, which has rarely been a happy hunting ground for her. But in Madrid and in her high-quality Roland Garros third-round loss to Leylah Fernandez, the Swiss's redirection and shot-making were as good as they've ever been. Bencic is close to top form, and holding it together mentally on a couple more key points could unlock a deep run on grass, a surface that plays much more to her strengths.
Nguyen: Jelena Ostapenko. We did not hear much from Ostapenko since her Dubai title run in February -- she is still the last player to have beaten Swiatek -- but maybe grass will be her salve, as it was last year. The Latvian’s bona fides are well established: a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 2018 and a champion in Eastbourne last summer. She is a player who needs a spark to suddenly race through a field.
Of course, the thrill of Ostapenko’s game is that nothing is a guarantee. So I can’t go so far as to say I “expect her to flourish.” This is more akin to posting a sign outside the All England Club that simply says “Watch Out.”