Here we are in Roland Garros. It is my favourite place, without a doubt. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but the only thing I can guarantee is I am going to fight to the end. –Thirteen times winner Rafael Nadal on his impending quarter-final with world number one Novak Djokovic

Impossible to predict a women’s winner 

By Roger Childs

The French Open was first contested in 1891 and then in 1928 the tournament moved to a new stadium in the capital named after World War One aviator, Roland Garros. Today it is the only one of the four grand slam tournaments played on the orange clay surface. 

A familiar sight in matches is players hitting their shoes with their racquets to dislodge the red clay from their soles. Another unique feature in clay tournaments is the sight of the umpire leaping out of the elevated chair to pinpoint where the ball has landed on the dusty surface in a disputed call. And after each set the court is swept.

 Every year the women’s winner is impossible to predict, and true to form this year nine of the top ten seeds were gone before the fourth round! (There are always 32 seeded players!) Last year’s women’s final was won by the unseeded Czech Barbora Krejčíková who beat the 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 2-6 6-4. They are nowhere to be seen this year. The top seed in 2022, Pole Iga Świątek, remains and must now be the favourite – but don’t bet on it!  However, she did win in 2020.

The more predictable men

Nadal

Six of the top ten seeds are through to the quarter-finals and there are some thrilling matches in prospect. Like last year, the two legends – Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic with 41 grand slam victories between them – will clash, with the Serb being favoured. The Spaniard, who is hugely popular with the French crowds, sadly has a recurring foot problem which if it flairs up will put him at a major disadvantage. 

In the other quarter final at the top end of the draw sees German Sacha Zverev meet Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz who recently won the major clay tournaments in Barcelona and Madrid. However, he nearly lost his second round match at Roland Garros against unknown fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos Viñolas, saving a match point before winning in five sets. So he is not unbeatable.

Alcaraz and Rudd

In the other matches the expected quarter finalists – number 2 seed Daniil Medvedev and last year’s finalist Stephanos Tsitsipas – are out, and unknown Dane Holger Rune, ranked 40 in the world, will meet eighth seed Norwegian Casper Ruud, and the evergreen 33 year old Croatian Marin Čilić, who thrashed Medvedev in three sets in the fourth round, plays seventh seed Andrey Rublev. 

Quality matches in store

The enthusiastic crowds at Roland Garros will enjoy the quarter-finals and the big one is the Djokovic – Nadal clash. There has been criticism of the organisers seeding the Spanish legend at number 5 meaning that he was destined to meet the Serb maestro in the quarters.

Surely his record so far in 2022 warranted a high ranking? 

  • Winning the Australian grand slam.
  • Winning the Mexican Open. 
  • A finalist at the Indian Wells Masters.
  • A quarter finalist at Madrid, beaten in a very close game by eventual winner Carlos Alcaraz.

Djokovic will be the favourite, but as Nadal comments above make clear he will be giving it his best shot despite a dodgy foot. He will have the crowd behind him and if he does win it will be hugely popular.

For what it’s worth, my picks to move on to semi-finals – Djokovic, Alcaraz, Ruud and Čilić.