What we learned from RG2022 men's event

 - Simon Cambers

The fortnight gone by in Paris threw up its usual host of surprises and taught us a few things

Rafael Nadal, Casper Ruud, trophées, finale, Roland-Garros 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

As an exciting fortnight in Paris has come to a close, here are some things we've learned from the men's event at Roland-Garros 2022.

Beating Nadal at RG still the toughest task in tennis

Even at the age of 36, the now 14-time Roland-Garros champion remains almost unstoppable when he gets his feet on the clay in the French capital.

Only two men have managed to beat him – Novak Djokovic (twice) and Robin Soderling.

Even this year, when his clay-court season began late due to a fractured rib and when he arrived in Paris with doubts about his fitness because of his left foot pain, he triumphed yet again.

Against Djokovic in the quarter-finals, he produced tennis of the highest calibre when he needed it, surprising everyone with his level, but shocking no one with his energy and ability to find a way, even when the odds seemed stacked against him.

He’s now 112-3 at Roland-Garros, a simply phenomenal record that will surely never be beaten.

At 36 and with 22 Grand Slam titles to his name, who knows how many more he has in him but he’s written his name indelibly in the tournament’s history.

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2022, final, trophy© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Djokovic not yet back to his best

When Djokovic won the title in Rome a week before the start of Roland-Garros, it looked as if he was back to his best after his well-documented struggles at the start of the year.

After he sauntered through his first four matches here, he was favourite to beat Nadal in the quarter-finals and go on to win the title for the second year in a row and the third in all.

But against Nadal, he was unable to produce his very best form when he needed it.

His coach, Goran Ivanisevic, said his body language was not quite where it should have been, his energy was not there and maybe he didn’t quite believe that he could beat Nadal.

That’s not the Djokovic we know so well. Expect him to bounce back at Wimbledon.

Alcaraz still a work in progress

When Carlos Alcaraz was installed as second favourite, in some places, to win Roland-Garros, ahead of Rafael Nadal, eyebrows were raised.

But such was the conviction that the 19-year-old was ready to win his first Slam that the pressure on his young shoulders was largely overlooked.

The danger signs were there when he looked a little flat in his match with Albert Ramos-Vinolas only to raise himself and save match point and win.

But he ran out of steam against Alexander Zverev in the quarters and has yet to get past that stage in a Slam.

He’s box office, that’s for sure, and he seems to have everything he needs to win Grand Slam titles.

But at Roland-Garros, he’ll have to wait another year at least.

Carlos Alcaraz, quart de finale, Roland-Garros 2022©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Ruud puts Norway on the map

Casper Ruud has been doing a great job on the ATP Tour for the past couple of years, with very little fanfare.

The 23-year-old has been Norway’s finest for a while now but after his outstanding run to the final in Paris, he’s put his nation on the tennis map.

At his best on clay, he performed well in the final but as so many have found before him, beating Nadal is a step too far.

A great athlete and seemingly a really great guy too, his quiet determination has already got him a long way.

Reaching a first Slam final will only bolster his confidence; he is likely to be a threat at Roland-Garros and elsewhere for many years.

Casper Ruud, Roland Garros 2022, final, trophy, Billie Jean King© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Winning a first Slam is so difficult

For Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov, Jannik Sinner and Andrey Rublev, the wait goes on.

Though Zverev and Tsitsipas have been closer, each of them within a set of taking their first Slam title, all five seem to keep finding ways not to make it over the line.

For Zverev, it was a combination of Rafael Nadal and bad luck; who knows what might have happened if he had not hurt his ankle in the semi-finals.

For Sinner, too, injury stopped him in his tracks when he was looking good.

But for Tsitsipas, it was a surprisingly poor performance in losing to teenager Holger Rune.

For Rublev, the quarter-final again was his limit and for Shapovalov, well, while he’s capable of incredible highs, he’s also entirely capable of playing well below par, which usually results in a loss, this time a first-round defeat, also by Rune.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, huitième de finale, Roland-Garros ©Loïc Wacziak / FFT

Rune could be next star to break through

The Dane is certainly not lacking talent, nor is he lacking belief. At 19 and as a former junior champion in Paris, he has the game to succeed on clay.

He also believes he is destined for the top, openly stating his aim to be world No.1 and win Grand Slam titles.

Many players aim for it, few get there but the way he plays and fights, he may just have a shot.

He has a bit to learn about etiquette, at 19 it’s hoped he’ll improve on that score, but with wins over big-name players and a quarter-final already under his belt here, he is likely to be near the top of the game soon.

Holger Rune, Roland Garros 2022, quarter-final© Cédric Lecocq/FFT