A genuine celebration of tennis, this year’s Roland-Garros women’s singles tournament threw up more than its fair share of revelations, excitement and surprises. With a number of seeds falling by the wayside early on, a clutch of unfancied names emerged to provide the thousands of fans who came to cheer them on with plenty of entertainment. We look back at the best of the matches from an especially flavoursome 2022 vintage.
Roland-Garros 2022: the pick of the women’s singles matches
The Roland-Garros 2022 women’s singles competition reached its conclusion on Saturday 4 June, with world No. 1 Iga Swiatek cruising to the title. We look back at the fortnight’s most memorable matches.
The most unexpected: Parry v Krejcikova (first round)
It is no exaggeration to say that Diane Parry pulled off the most notable result of the fortnight in the opening round. Though Barbora Krejcikova was probably below her best, having been sidelined with an elbow injury since February, she was still the defending champion and No. 2 seed. Taking on the Czech in the imposing surroundings of the Court Philippe-Chatrier was without doubt the biggest challenge the young Boulogne-Billancourt Tennis Club player had ever faced.
It was a challenge that seemed too much for her in the early stages. Jittery and imprecise with her ground strokes, the Nice-born Parry allowed the 2021 champion to dictate proceedings and canter to the first set (6-1) in just 33 minutes. As if the Frenchwoman’s plight were not already difficult enough, she then coughed up a break at the start of the second. The spectators feared the worst, while hoping the home player could find a spark from somewhere. It came in the very next game, when Parry suddenly began to go for her shots, stringing some impressive winners together and imposing herself under the stadium’s closed roof, which gave this the feel of a Billie Jean King Cup arena.
She won the set to tee up a decider, and with the business end of the match to come, Krejcikova took the opportunity to recharge her batteries and convert an early break point. Cheered on by the home fans and determined to give it her all, the French player continued to sow doubt in her opponent’s mind, however. The 19-year-old then took the upper hand, punching a forehand volley into an open court to set up the all-important break in game eight. She completed the finest win of her career (1-6 6-2 6-3 in two hours eight minutes) in the very next game before clenching a fist at her entourage and – with her mind still racing no doubt – signing a heartfelt “Merci Paris” on the camera lens.
The most promising: Fernandez v Anisimova (round of 16)
When it comes to the most heartening campaign of the fortnight, Leylah Fernandez’s is right up there. Beaten, to everyone’s surprise, by Maddison Inglis in the first round of the Australian Open in January, the runner-up at last year’s US Open rediscovered her best tennis and will to win in the French capital. In superb form against Belinda Bencic in the third round and combative to the bitter end in defeat and pain against Martina Trevisan in the quarters, the Canadian thrilled the fans in this enticing duel with Next Gen rival Amanda Anisimova.
An eagerly awaited clash between two young players with the ability to kick on and dominate the women’s game, it lived up to all expectations. In a high-quality opening stanza, the Canadian – the younger of the two – prevailed 6-3, though Anisimova’s partial recovery from 1-5 down suggested this would be no one-sided affair. Striking the ball with power, the American began to hit the lines, thumping 18 winners to break down Fernandez’s defences and level the match up. In doing so, she erased memories of her tearful defeat in their first head-to-head at Indian Wells in March, a match in which Anisimova passed up four match points.
With the players going toe to toe, the match grew in intensity and the task of predicting a winner proved more and more difficult. The Canadian’s heroic defence kept her in contention in the final set, as Anisimova rained blows down upon her. Coupled with the noisy encouragement of the crowd, the Canadian’s incessant glances towards her team revealed her determination to make her first senior quarter-final at Roland-Garros, having won the girls’ singles title here in 2019. She eventually won the day, though it could easily have gone her opponent’s way, as the stats showed: 92 points for Fernandez versus 88 for Anisimova. Expressing her joy in front of a crowd that knew it had just had a taste of the future, Fernandez said: “Thank you to the fans for supporting me. Before I’d even won the junior title, all I ever wanted to do was play in front of you on the Court Philippe-Chatrier. I am very happy to be here and to be able to play another game.”
The most titanic: Teichmann v Azarenka (third round)
The longest of this year’s women’s singles tournament, this pulsating match kept the fortunate spectators at the Court Simonne-Mathieu royally entertained for three hours 18 minutes. And though the duration of a match is not always an indication of its quality, the intensity, emotions and twists and turns of this encounter more than made up for some entirely excusable errors. Having come through an epic three-hour-22-minute women’s doubles match with her compatriot Viktorija Golubic, Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann walked the tightrope again in a thrilling three-setter (4-6 7-5 7-6(5)) against Victoria Azarenka, the player who knocked her out of the Australian Open at the start of the year.
The former world No. 1 made the better start, largely thanks to her service, winning 85% of points on her first serve and getting the better of her opponent in all the long rallies. At 6-4 3-1, she looked to be flying to another Grand Slam last 16. Teichmann, a left hander, had other ideas, however. Hitting with power and pugnacity, she upped her winner count (it would stand at 54 by the end of the match). The contest ended in the only way that it could – with a super tie-break that the Swiss dominated from start to end before an enraptured crowd. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s a bit crazy,” said the 24-year-old Swiss, visibly emotional at scoring one of the biggest wins of her career on the clay of Paris. “Many thanks to the fans. It felt just like home.”
The one that could have changed everything: Swiatek v Zheng (round of 16)
It’s hard to pick out one match from Iga Swiatek’s regal run to the title, so high was her rhythm and standard of play across the tournament. Too sharp and powerful for her opponents, the world No. 1 was never truly stretched, though the story could have been different if she hadn’t got off the hook against Qinwen Zheng, who proved a genuine revelation on her Roland-Garros debut.
Having accounted for 2018 champion Simona Halep in the second round – a match that could have easily featured in this selection – the young Chinese appeared to be out of her depth at first. Trailing 3-0 and then 5-2, she seemed destined for the same fate as the invincible Pole’s previous victims. Zheng stuck to her task, however, and her valiant defence slowly began to pay dividends. As the tension cranked up a notch, the Tour’s dominant force had to dig a little deeper and began to make some uncharacteristic mistakes, her mounting anxiety at Zheng’s resistance revealing itself between games.
Not content with giving Swiatek a good game, the Chinese took her all the way to the tie-break in the opening set, one of the best of the tournament. Despite trailing 5-2 at one stage, she went on to win it, following one hour 27 minutes of high-octane tennis. The exertion took its toll on the underdog, who later said she had been struggling with menstrual cramps. And while the second and third sets did not live up to the first in terms of intensity and rivalry, they did reveal the mental strength and sheer breadth of skills of the player they call 1ga, who never knows when she is beaten. Her 6-7(5) 6-0 6-2 victory was but another step on her path to a second Roland-Garros crown.
As with the men’s singles, picking the best women’s matches was tough to say the least. Here are some other encounters that will live long in the memory:
The most impressive: Swiatek v Kasatkina (semi-finals)
The most astounding: Giorgi v Sabalenka (third round)
The most unpredictable: Zheng v Halep (second round)
The tightest: Trevisan v Sasnovich (round of 16)
The most surprising: Jeanjean v Pliskova (second round)
The most good-natured: Gauff v Stephens (quarter-final)