It’s an exercise I loathe.
And I promptly conveyed that to Valérie Tétreault, director of communications at Tennis Canada, when she asked me to share my French Open predictions.
Still, the very next day, I sent her a table of winners for every match in the seven rounds of the women’s and men’s events.
It just goes to show that, in spite of everything, it’s always exciting to test our knowledge of the game, the players and the conditions and try to prove we know best.
But more often than not, it’s a way to demonstrate we aren’t seers, sorcerers or omen readers. It’s actually more of an exercise in humility.
For us Sunday oracles, tournament wrap-ups can be difficult. Even so, I accepted the risks inherent to making predictions and typed up this blog as a tribute to those whose prognostications were spot-on and as an act of self-deprecation towards the man in the mirror, who was way off.
Let’s start with my guesses, since I’m the worst of the group.
I was right about two: Félix Auger-Aliassime and Iga Swiatek, though there isn’t a lot of merit to gambling on the women’s No.1. All us experts made the same safe bet.
On the men’s side, only Ben Lewis of the Match Point Canada podcast saw Rafael Nadal taking the crown. Major props to Ben, who picked both winners and Coco Gauff as the breakout star.
To find those dark horses, you have to fill out the entire table and see who could go the furthest based on performances thus far and possible opponents.
I also take my hat off to former pro and Tennis Canada coach Marie-Ève Pelletier and Hugues Léger. They put their money on the young Holger Rune, who fought his way into the quarters and ran into eventual finalist Casper Ruud.
Among our Canadians, the many votes for Bianca Andreescu speak to the high hopes we had for her return to form. Alas, she bowed out earlier than we would have wanted. As far as Félix Auger-Aliassime, he was the Canadian man who went the furthest.
An honourable mention goes to Mark Masters, who picked Gabriela Dabrowski. She stayed in the mix the longest, getting as far as the semifinal of the mixed doubles event. Mark also chose Swiatek and Gauff in their respective categories.
We won’t be putting away our crystal balls just yet, since the next major is only about 20 days away. I’m already dreading the moment Valérie will ask me for my predictions.
But I’m also pretty excited, to be honest.
It’s a fun game, especially since no actual bets are on the line.
The unwavering and the invincible
Where to start?
With the woman who earned 6 straight titles and 35 straight wins?
With the man who won his 14th Roland-Garros and 22nd Slam at the age of 36?
It’s a tough choice, but the startlingly excellent Iga Swiatek—invincible conqueror of the women’s game for the past four months—certainly won’t mind letting her idol and elder go first.
Of all the aspects of Rafa’s (latest) win, his age and physical strength remain as spectacular as they are improbable. In the shark-infested waters of the ATP, the King of Clay survives and thrives.
In Paris, his 112-3 record and 14 crowns constitute unbelievable achievements. And of all the unsurpassable records in sports history, his 14th Coupe des Mousquetaires is among the most mind-boggling. Just unbeatable.
And let’s not forget his 22nd Slam, which puts him two ahead of the other two.
Besides the question marks surrounding his health, Nadal’s unwavering determination is astonishing. No matter the opponent, no matter how desperate the situation, he almost always finds a way to win at the French Open.
Like a lot of players, Iga Swiatek grew up idolizing Rafael Nadal. But unlike unfortunate men’s finalist Casper Ruud, she doesn’t have to face him on the court.
That said, she likely applied Nadal’s philosophy after a chance meeting with him in Paris last year.
At Roland-Garros, the World No.1 steamrolled her way through the draw. Only the lesser known 19-year-old No.74 Qinwen Zheng stole a set from her but was then forced to pay the high price of 6-0, 6-2. Besides that 7-6 set, Iga gave nothing away. She got to 7-5 against Danka Kovinic but otherwise left only crumbs for her rivals who, in 14 sets, never managed to win more than three games in the same set.
Iga’s stats will blow your mind. In 2022, she’s 44-3. Since falling to Jelena Ostapenko in Dubai on February 16, Swiatek has won her last 35 matches, including two conquests at Billie Jean King Cup where she dropped one game in FOUR sets.
35 straight wins is the longest run this century since Venus Williams in 2000. Iga hasn’t yet entered the top 10 of winning women, but she could join the ranks of Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Steffi Graf if she can make it to 41 consecutive Ws.
Dig a little deeper, and you’ll see how absolutely bewildering the 21-year-old’s numbers are.
In 2022, she’s lost 14 of 104 sets. Of the 90 sets she won, she played to 7-5 three times and to 7-6 four times. To make matters (a lot) worse for her adversaries, Swiatek has served up 16 bagels.
And she’s just getting started.
You see why the 1 in front of her name makes perfect sense.
Looking at the two French champions, there are a lot of similarities in their ability to stay totally focused on their goal.
Also significant is their ascendancy over their rivals. Iga and Rafa get into their opponents’ heads. Even on a bad day, they find a way to win. They’re able to disarm their competitors and render them unable to compete to their full potential, as evidenced in the quite average tennis of the quite excellent Casper Ruud, who’s been on the rise in the Top 10.
We’re only six months into 2022, but Iga and Rafa have staked serious claims on the title of player of the year.
On another topic, could we have just witnessed Nadal’s swan song? Playing an entire tournament with a numb left foot isn’t exactly a life plan, as he said himself in a presser. Indeed, many experts and fans think the 2022 season will be his last.
But for now, let’s conclude on a more optimistic note: Rafa’s 40th Roland-Garros in 2050.
Separated at birth (4)
On the left, a rising star in men’s tennis.
On the right, a rising star in men’s freestyle skiing who has yet to climb down from his throne even after decade of domination.
Watching Holger Rune of Denmark at Roland-Garros, I couldn’t help but detect similarities with the most accomplished mogul skier of all time, Mikaël Kingsbury.
So much so that I added them to my gallery of tennis players separated at birth from a long-lost twin.
Follow all our Canadians in action here.