What we learned from RG2022 women's event

A look at some of the biggest takeaways from the ladies' action in Paris

 - Stephanie Livaudais

After a fortnight full of breakthroughs and surprises, the women’s tournament ended the way we always suspected it would: with world No.1 Iga Swiatek winning the title.

But along the way favourites rose and fell, teenagers made their mark, and for the first time in two years, Roland-Garros finally felt like Roland-Garros again.

Here's a look at some of the biggest takeaways from the women's action in Paris.

Swiatek sweeps past everyone in Paris, as expected

What can we say about Iga Swiatek that hasn't already been said during this stellar run to her second title at Roland-Garros? The top-ranked Pole has exhausted every adjective and superlative, on her way to doing what most people had been predicting her to do all along: lifting another Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen.

“I think in 2020, the main thing that I felt was confusion, because I have never really believed 100 per cent that I can actually win a Grand Slam,” confessed Swiatek. “This time, it was pure work.”

Having not lost a match since February, Swiatek came into the tournament on a mind-boggling winning streak and seeking her sixth consecutive title of the year. The 21-year-old did more than withstand the pressure: she mowed down most of her competition, too, dropping only one set all tournament long.

She romped past 18-year-old Coco Gauff in the final, bringing her unbeaten run to 35 matches. It’s the joint third-longest streak on the women’s tour since 1990, tying Venus Williams and trailing only Monica Seles (36) and Martina Hingis (37). 

Iga Swiatek pont de Bir Hakeim 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Remember the name: Zheng Qinwen

Speaking of Swiatek having only dropped one set…

Playing in just her second Grand Slam main draw, 19-year-old Chinese phenom Zheng Qinwen walks away with the distinction of having been the only player to come close to toppling the world No.1 off her perch.

Zheng came into the tournament ranked No.74, but she announced herself to the tennis world in a big way with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory over 2018 champion Simona Halep in the second round.

Advancing into the fourth round after winning 6-0, 3-0 (ret.) over an injured Alize Cornet, she had Swiatek on the ropes before the Pole bounced back with a 6-7(5), 6-0, 6-2 victory.

Inspired by Li Na, who became China’s first ever Grand Slam champion at Roland-Garros in 2011, Zheng will now depart Paris at a new career-high ranking of No.55.

"I believe that there's always a chance to beat [my] opponent. It doesn't [matter] who is in front of me,” Zheng said after her win over Halep. After what she did in the first week, we don’t disagree.

Gauff arrives in Paris, again

During Coco Gauff’s 2018 run to the Roland-Garros girls’ title, she took down future US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez on her way to the final against Caty McNally, who defeated future world No.1 Swiatek in the semi-finals.

(See why you should be paying attention to the juniors at Roland-Garros?)

Fast forward four years, and 18-year-old Gauff is now the youngest woman to play a Grand Slam final since Maria Sharapova at 2004 Wimbledon.

She’s also a double threat: in singles, she dropped just one set en route to her first Grand Slam final, and she also partnered with Jessica Pegula to reach her second Grand Slam women's doubles final, where they eventually lost in three to Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic.

It was an unexpected result for the young American, who had been struggling to find consistency this year, but one she is determined to build off of.

“Going in, I know I've been saying a lot, ‘Oh, it's just a tennis match, it doesn't matter’. Really, that's what I believe. It doesn't matter,” Gauff said, amid tears during her post-final press conference.

“I mean, with the emotions now I'm feeling it a lot, but tomorrow I'm gonna wake up and be really proud of myself.”

Move the lines with style – and then double it

Doing double duty at Roland-Garros is becoming quite the tradition on the women's side in Paris in recent years.

Last year, Barbora Krejcikova swept both the women’s singles and doubles trophies.

Her 17-year-old countrywoman Lucie Havlickova repeated the feat in the girls' event this year, while 18-year-old Gauff nearly pulled it off too in the women’s event with her run to the singles and doubles finals.

And in between lifting the 2020 and 2022 singles trophy, Swiatek herself also reached a Roland-Garros final in doubles last year partnered with Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Caroline Garcia, Kristina Mladenovic, Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff, trophées, finale dames, Roland-Garros 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

French flair produces unforgettable memories

During a tournament that has seen French stalwarts like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon bow out amid emotional retirement ceremonies, the homegrown talent in the women’s draw proved that they can inspire a nation too.

Three French women made memorable runs into the third round – and in inimitable French fashion, the story is less about what they achieved and more about how they got there.

For 227th-ranked Leolia Jeanjean, it was becoming the lowest ranked woman in 34 years to defeat a women’s top-10 seed, when the Grand Slam debutante stunned world No.8 Karolina Pliskova 6-2, 6-2.

For 32-year-old Alize Cornet, it was taking down 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-0, 1-6, 6-3 under the lights of the Court Philippe-Chatrier night session.

And for 19-year-old Diane Parry, the most memorable moment of all: The Paris resident recorded her best Grand Slam result to date after stunning world No.2 and defending champion Barbora Krejcikova in the first round, rallying from a set down to win 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 en route to round three.

“When my mother would bring me to school, I could see every day the Roland-Garros stadium,” Parry said. “It was a dream for me to play there once… Today it's a dream come true in front of a beautiful crowd.”

In women’s doubles, the reunited duo of Mladenovic and Garcia charged to the title, a repeat of their 2016 run to the trophy.

Leolia Jeanjean, 1er tour, Roland-Garros 2022©Clément Mahoudeau / FFT

Trevisan’s Italian Renaissance, The Remix

Nice to meet you, Martina Trevisan, it’s great to see you again.

The talented Italian made an inspirational run to the Roland-Garros quarter-finals in her main draw debut back in 2020. But in nearly two years since, she struggled to put together any significant results – just three victories from 19 tour-level matches last year.

“I collected a lot of experience, positive and negative experience,” Trevisan said of her lean 2021 season. “At the beginning of this year, (the difference) is that I was dreaming of this moment, because in myself, in my head, I see again this moment.

"I thought to myself, ‘Yes, Martina, you can do it again.’"

And did she ever.

The 28-year-old claimed her long-awaited first WTA title in Rabat during the build-up to Roland-Garros, defeating top seed Muguruza along the way. She translated all of that momentum into success on the terre battue with a career-best run to the semi-finals.

Martina Trevisan, demi-finales, Roland-Garros 2022©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Do the California slide

They’ve come a long way, baby. While we’ve been celebrating the 50th anniversary of Billie Jean King’s singles victory at Roland-Garros, we couldn’t help but notice just how strong the American contingent has performed during the fortnight.

 "I was born and raised in California, where they don't teach us to slide,” King recalled in an interview with the official magazine of Roland-Garros. There was even a word for it once: the disparaging ‘California slide’.

Those days are long gone. The United States was the most represented nation with 16 players in the women’s draw this year, and they left their mark on the terre battue and all through the clay season. In addition to Gauff’s run to the singles and doubles finals, doubles partner Pegula also equalled her best Grand Slam result by reaching the quarter-finals.

Madison Keys also enjoyed strong results in Paris, reaching the semi-finals in doubles with Taylor Townsend after a fourth-round singles appearance, while 2018 finalist Sloane Stephens returned to the quarter-finals for the first time in three years.

Jessica Pegula, 3e tour, Roland-Garros 2022©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Fernandez leaves her mark

After her breakthrough run to the US Open final last year, many pundits wondered how 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez would fare at future majors now that there was a target firmly on her back.

A first-round exit at the 2022 Australian Open seemed like a bad omen, but by the time Roland-Garros came around Fernandez’s luck had turned.

The lefty broke French hearts with a handy defeat of Kristina Mladenovic in the opening round, and she followed it up with a comfortable win over Katerina Siniakova. Fernandez’s highly entertaining 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 win over Olympic champion Belinda Bencic sent her into the second week at a major for just the second time in her young career, and she booked a place in the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over Amanda Anisimova. 

“Every time I step out on the court I still have something to prove,” said Fernandez, who will rise to a career-high world No.17 on Monday. “I still have that mindset that I'm the underdog. I'm still young, I still have a lot to show to the people.”

Leylah Fernandez, huitièmes de finale, Roland-Garros 2022© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Fan-tastic atmosphere returns to Stade Roland-Garros

If playing Rafael Nadal at Roland-Garros is considered to be the toughest task in tennis, then the second toughest has to be facing a French player during the first week of the tournament.

The passionate and vocal fans made themselves heard from the start of the fortnight, and lent the full force of every Allez! and Popopo popo po! in support of every home favourite, underdog and inspirational character.

“Having that experience of the French crowd that was chanting, shouting, it was a great experience, like a football match,” Fernandez said after defeating Mladenovic on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

That unforgettable atmosphere has been the last piece of the puzzle after a tough couple of years in our sport – and in the world. The 2020 tournament had to be held in the autumn with a cap on attendance, while last year’s event also saw limited spectators and night sessions held behind closed doors.

Now, Roland-Garros is back in its rightful place on the calendar, and tennis fans are back where they belong: in the stands, doing the Mexican wave round and round Chatrier.

John Isner, Quentin Halys, Roland Garros 2022, fans, first round© Johan Sonnet/FFT