Featuring Rafa the Immortal, unbeatable Iga and words on Coco, Casper and more

Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros
Despite his physical problems going in, Rafael Nadal claimed a 14th Roland Garros title | Crosscourt View

Rafa The Immortal

Despite Iga Swiatek's triumph, we can only really start in one place. Rafael Nadal secured his 14th Roland Garros title on Sunday and 22nd overall with a 6-3 6-3 6-0 victory over Casper Ruud.

There have been endless stats nominated to make sense of the Spaniard's achievements but I particularly like the following:

I think I've seen every final that Rafael Nadal has won on Philippe Chatrier and I can't quite believe this has all happened. Imagine how difficult it will be for future generations to comprehend the figures having not lived through it.

Given that Nadal's preparation was beset by injury to the point that he had to have numbing injections in his foot throughout the tournament, and that he had to beat four top 10 players to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires, it's an even more remarkable achievement.

How about the Emperor of Clay?

Unbeatable Iga

What a brilliant overall package the Pole is.

On the court, Iga Swiatek brims with energy, swift footwork, consistent and powerful groundstrokes, imagination and a terrific attitude. While off the court, she seems to be a genuinely lovely person and reaffirmed that view in her post-final speech where she found time to encourage support for Ukraine.

Swiatek is now on a winning streak of 35 matches. That equals the record set by Venus Williams in 2000, and is one better than Serena’s run in 2013. You’d imagine - bar a disaster - that the world no.1 will break the former record either at a warm-up event for Wimbledon or at SW19 itself.

What must be particularly frightening for the tour is that Swiatek’s game is built on balance and consistency. While she is much more aggressive than before, aided by the confidence of winning, the 21-year-old doesn’t have to take wild risks with flat shots to beat opponents.

Like the Big Three on the men’s side, it looks like Swiatek can probably tear you apart using only 75% of her powers. Who knows how much she’ll win.

Consistent Casper

Foolishly, I thought that Casper Ruud might extract more from Nadal in the final given how well the Norwegian played to get there and the Spaniard’s physical issues.

That was not the case as Ruud only extracted six games from a comfortable Nadal. Still, it was a great tournament for Ruud who has become the most consistent clay court winner in recent years beyond Roland Garros.

The fact that he made the final of Miami earlier this year bodes well for the North American swing on the horizon.

Allez Coco

Coco Gauff became quite popular with the home fans when I was there and the refrain of “Allez Coco” was often heard from the stands. Of course the American did more than enough to warrant their support over the fortnight.

Coco Gauff at Roland Garros
Coco Gauff received plenty of support from the crowd as she made the finals in singles and doubles | Crosscourt View

The 18-year-old did not drop a set before the Swiatek storm hit her in the final. Gauff also made the final of the doubles where she and Jessie Pegula only lost to the former no.1 pairing of Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic.

There has been an inevitability about the rise of Coco Gauff for a few years now and it looks like she is just about ready to leap into the conversation for majors. That’s if Iga lets anyone else win.

So Close For Sascha

Obviously, there’s never a good time to get a serious injury. But Alexander Zverev was particularly unlucky to turn on his ankle with Nadal looking vulnerable after three hours of gruelling play.

If Zverev had not slipped, the match may have swung his way and/or Nadal would have been on court for considerably longer. That’s not what happened though and while the Spaniard is celebrating a 14th title, Zverev waits to see if his season is over.

Top Ten Troubles

While Swiatek confirmed her status as the sport’s best player and romped home to victory on Sunday, the majority of her top 10 peers will want to forget the fortnight.

Anett Kontaveit at Roland Garros
It was a surprisingly early exit for Anett Kontaveit | Crosscourt View

The defending champion Barbora Krejcikova, second favourite for the title Ons Jabeur, former champion Garbine Muguruza, and fifth seed Anett Kontaveit (pictured) all exited in the first round.

The tournament wasn’t much better for Paula Badosa (third round), Maria Sakkari (second round) and Aryna Sabalenka (third round).

Rising Stars Make Mark

Beyond Nadal and Djokovic, the most likely male victor at this year’s tournament was probably Carlos Alcaraz. The 19-year-old entered the tournament with four titles under his belt and a lorry load of confidence.

While Alcaraz didn’t quite hit his stride in the quarter-final with Zverev, his potential and ability is there for all to see.

It was also an important breakout tournament for Holger Rune as he made the last eight after impressive victories over Stefanos Tsitsipas and Denis Shapovalov. While the Dane’s game is superb, his exit was less so after some nonsense in the match with Ruud led the Norwegian to shake his head after a limp handshake from Rune.

Night Vision

Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros
A packed Court Philippe Chatrier for Rafael Nadal's evening match with Corentin Moutet | Crosscourt View

Arguably, the most dominant storyline throughout the tournament surrounded the night sessions.

For the first 11 days, one match was scheduled for the evening on Philippe Chatrier. I attended one (Nadal v Moutet) and I can confirm that there were issues.

First, the matches were on too late as they started at 20.45 local time due to a deal with Amazon Prime in France. This meant that if the match went beyond three hours, you would struggle to find public transport or a taxi.

Second, it was generally cold in the evening. Roland Garros wasn’t particularly sunny this year. It was often overcast with temperatures between 10-20 degrees. At night, it could feel particularly cold when you’re sitting in a stadium for three hours.

Third, it was mostly about the men. 10 out of 11 sessions were a men’s match. If you only schedule one match, I can understand the argument for a best-of-five match over a best-of-three. After spending upwards of €90, I don’t really want to go to all that effort and expense to see Swiatek demolish an opponent in under an hour. However, it’s clearly not equal for the women so there are some pretty obvious remedies.

In fairness to tournament director Amelie Mauresmo, it was her first year and she admitted it's challenging to get the situation right:

"Concerning the scheduling, specifically for the night matches, my say was that because we have one match only it's really tougher to schedule a woman's match, because we have to take into consideration the length."

"Next year…to be more fair…it would be good to maybe have the possibility to put on two matches, or maybe a women's match plus a doubles match, to try to find a better solution to be fair to everyone."

Hopefully this won't crop up as a running storyline in 12 months.

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