What's next for RG2022 standouts?

 - Chris Oddo

With Paris officially in the rear view mirror, we cast an eye forward to what lays ahead for the rest of 2022

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

The last ball has been struck at Roland-Garros in 2022, and the champions have been crowned.

While the echoes of cheers and chants still ring in our ears, we're already thinking of how this year's Parisian fortnight might impact the rest of the season. Who put themselves on the fast track for more success? Will the currency of confidence favour the standouts as the tours move to grass and then hard courts?

Let's explore...

Iga's next challenge

It wasn't long after Poland's Iga Swiatek finished steamrolling the women's singles draw in Paris that the conversation turned to Wimbledon. The two-time Slam champion has dominated the clay for several seasons now, amassing a 42-6 lifetime record on the surface and racking up 21 victories from 23 matches at Roland-Garros.

What can she do on grass?

"My coach believes I can win more matches on grass," Swiatek said after claiming the women's singles title on Saturday. "I don't know about that yet."

Iga Swiatek, Daria Abramowicz, Tomasz Wiktorowski, entourage, Roland Garros 2022, trophy© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

The Pole is looking forward to stepping into an underdog role when she changes surfaces. She owns a 4-4 lifetime record on grass, with three of those triumphs coming last year at Wimbledon, where she made the fourth round.

"I actually like the part that I have no expectations there, it's something kind of refreshing," she said, adding that her coach Tomasz Wiktorowski's experience guiding former Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska on the surface should boost her chances.

"Maybe he's going to give me some tips that are actually going to be really helpful, and I'm going to enjoy playing on grass a little bit more," she said.

Does Rafa have anything left to prove?

Now that Rafael Nadal has extended his otherworldly legacy in Paris by capturing his record 14th Roland-Garros and 22nd Grand Slam title, many wonder if the Mallorcan's insatiable appetite for victory might finally be satisfied. This weekend in Paris, when asked if he'd prefer a healthy foot over winning Sunday's final, his reply was telling:

"I would prefer to lose Sunday's final and get a new foot," he said in Spanish. "A win is beautiful, but life is much more important than any title, especially after the career that I had."

Having sacrificed so much to reach - and remain at - the summit of the sport, was it now time for the 36-year-old to tap the brakes? Or, having captured the first two legs of the coveted calendar Grand Slam for the first time, does he keep the blinders on as he soldiers forth into the second half of the season?

After Nadal's triumph over Casper Ruud on Sunday, we were all able to breathe a sigh of relief - for now it appears to be the latter.

"I don't know what can happen in the future, but I'm going to keep fighting to try to keep going," Nadal told the crowd in Paris, as applause thundered across Court Philippe-Chatrier.

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

Novak turns attention to Wimbledon

Though he was unable to get past his greatest rival and frequent foil Rafael Nadal in Paris this week, Novak Djokovic has a proven track record when it comes to rebounding from difficult Roland-Garros defeats with inspiring play at Wimbledon.

Djokovic is the three-time defending champion at SW19, and has claimed six Wimbledon titles overall. His coach Goran Ivanisevic believes the 20-time major champion will again rise from the ashes of a difficult defeat and reassert his dominance on grass.

"He is the biggest favourite at Wimbledon, just like Rafa was here," Ivanisevic told Sasa Ozmo in an interview with Tennis Majors. "Novak now needs to rest well and prepare for Wimbledon physically and mentally. I am sure that he can do it and I think he will win Wimbledon, I have a good feeling about that. He needs to focus on grass now."

Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roland-Garros 2022©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Just the beginning for Gauff

The 18-year-old Coco Gauff's tears were hard to ignore and the world couldn't help but be moved as the American reacted to a difficult defeat to Iga Swiatek in Saturday's Roland-Garros women's singles final.

While a devastating loss, once Gauff wiped those tears aside, she could see that her performance pointed to much bigger things in the future.

"I'm super proud of myself," she said. "Feeling a lot of emotions right now. A mix of happiness and sadness. I'm going to take this experience and hopefully learn from it and get better."

Gauff, who will rise to a career-high world No.13 on Monday, was already setting her sights on raising her level so that she may compete with world-beating Swiatek on the sport's biggest stages.

"Now that I have seen the level, this level of No.1 and 35 matches, I know that what I have to do," she said. "Hopefully next time I'm sure I'm going to play her in another final and hopefully it's a different result."

The beginning of something big for Zheng?

China's Qinwen Zheng had a sizzling Roland-Garros debut that saw her topple 2018 champion Simona Halep in the second round, en route to the round of 16. The 19-year-old couldn't steer her way past Iga Swiatek, but has nevertheless emerged as a player to watch moving forward .

A commanding physical presence, the ball seems to fly off of the teenager's racquet. Combine that jaw-dropping power with world-class movement and a serve that pops, and we have a recipe for a future star, no matter the surface.

The Chinese is not short on confidence either.

"If you talk about only tennis, I think the level was not too much like big difference," she said of her defeat to Swiatek. "Of course I have my own weapons. I think my serve... I have better speed than her."

Zheng will head to grass next, where she has never played a professional match. Will her Wimbledon debut be as impressive as what we saw in Paris?

Casper, emboldened?

Now that we've seen Norway's Casper Ruud slalom through a Roland-Garros draw to become Norway's first Grand Slam finalist, has the 23-year-old taken the first giant step towards becoming a Paris legend? A natural on the terre battue, Ruud is well set up for future success at his favourite Grand Slam.

Not only is he the ATP's winningest player on clay since 2020, he's also one of the most humble and dedicated workers in the sport.

After his lopsided loss to Nadal he vowed to use the experience as motivation to push him forward.

"So I know what it takes to win here now," said Ruud of his journey to his first Grand Slam final. "It gives me just a small taste of what hopefully can be happening more times in my career, so it gives me, of course, a lot of motivation. If I ever get to this position again I will know a little bit what it is. Like I said I will keep working and trying my best every day to come back to this situation.” 

If Ruud continues to improve and add layers to to his already world-class game, he is a likely candidate to raise the Coupe des Mousquetaires in the future - maybe more than once.

And if he can continue to blossom on grass, where he is 2-3 lifetime, and hard courts, where he is 52-41, the Norwegian can be a potential a top-five stalwart for years to come.

Casper Ruud, Rafael Nadal, finale Roland-Garros 2022©Cédric Lecocq / FFT

A Dasha revival?

The last time Daria Kasatkina made a deep run in Paris, she followed it up with a quarter-final run at Wimbledon, and ended the season in the top 10. That was 2018, back when the wildly talented shotmaker was 21 and considered to be a future star of the sport by a majority of pundits.

Four years later, after working her way back from form struggles, Kasatkina is looking like a force once again. The only player that has defeated her at the Slams in 2022 is Swiatek, and there's no shame in that.

After semi-final performances at Rome and Roland-Garros, Kasatkina will look to ride her confidence into the second half of the season, where she could be a factor on grass and hard courts.

"Winning matches always gives you confidence, and as my coach said, the best medicine is to win matches," she said. "That's the best way, and I'm happy with this way."