The second quarter of the 2022 ATP Tour season saw significant milestones for seasoned campaigners and #NextGenATP stars alike, some fond farewells, and a classic Big 3 duel.
A clay-court season that began with Reilly Opelka beating John Isner in the tallest ATP Tour final in the Open Era ended with Rafael Nadal clinching a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. In between, Carlos Alcaraz dominated in Barcelona and Madrid to crack the Top 10 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time, while Stefanos Tsitsipas and Novak Djokovic added to their Masters 1000 trophy collections with triumphs in Monte Carlo and Rome, respectively.
Below, ATPTour.com reflects on all that and more from a thrilling clay-court season.
Fantastic 14 For Nadal At Roland Garros
An injury-hampered build-up to the clay-court Grand Slam may have raised some doubts around Nadal’s ability to clinch his record-extending 14th Roland Garros crown, but the 36-year-old put those to bed with another stunning fortnight in Paris.
The Spaniard moved past Felix Auger-Aliassime, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Casper Ruud to a 22nd Grand Slam title, becoming just the third player to earn four Top 10 wins at a Grand Slam since the Pepperstone ATP Rankings began in 1973.
After Auger-Aliassime had pushed Nadal to four sets in their fourth-round clash, the Spaniard and old foe Djokovic played out a classic quarter-final for an ecstatic night session crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier. Nadal’s 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4) win took four hours and 11 minutes and finished after 1 a.m local time, reducing his ATP Head2Head series deficit against the Serbian to 29-30.
Nadal was equally as dialled-in in the final against eighth seed Casper Ruud, dropping just six games against the Norwegian to seal his second major title of the year and extend his lead over second-placed Alcaraz in the Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin to 1,800 points as he hunts a 17th appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals.
“It is something that I have never believed. To be here at 36, being competitive again on the most important court of my career,” said Nadal following his 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 win in the championship match. “One more title means a lot. It means a lot of energy to try and keep going… I don’t know what can happen in the future but I am going to keep fighting to try and keep going.”
Alcaraz Doubles Up At Home
Alcaraz picked up a pair of titles in his homeland as the Spaniard’s impressive 2022 continued in style on the European clay. His maiden tour-level trophy on home soil at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell made the then-18-year-old the ninth-youngest player to climb into the Top 10 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in the Open Era on 25 April.
It got even better for Alcaraz at the Masters 1000 event in Madrid in early May. He capped his 19th birthday week by defeating Cameron Norrie, Nadal, Djokovic and Zverev to clinch a second Masters 1000 title of the year.
“It is a great moment for me,” said Alcaraz after completing a seventh straight Top 10 win over Zverev in the championship match. “It is the first tournament I watched, so lifting the trophy today is so emotional.”
“I want to congratulate Carlitos. Right now you are the best player in the world,” added Zverev.
Alcaraz followed that success with a run to his first quarter-final at Roland Garros, boosting the exciting 19-year-old’s chances of qualifying for November’s Nitto ATP Finals for the first time. The Spaniard sits second in the Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin, with 3,820 points. At the end of the season, the top eight players in the Race will qualify for the year-end finals, and Alcaraz’s current total puts him 1850 points clear of ninth-placed Djokovic.
Opelka Wins ‘Battle Of The Serve-Bots’ In Houston
Big servers may not be renowned for their success on clay, but Reilly Opelka and John Isner proved themselves more than adept on the surface at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship in early April. World No. 17 Opelka beat Isner 6-3, 7-6(7) in the championship match to clinch a fourth tour-level title, his first on the red dirt.
The battle between 6’11” Opelka and 6’10” Isner marked the tallest ATP Tour final in the Open Era. Despite the serving prowess on show there were 13 break points across the one-hour, 50-minute clash.
“He [Isner] was my idol growing up as a kid, and before I even met him, I liked him,” said Opelka after beating his countryman for the fifth consecutive time. “We’ve played a handful of times and you keep on beating me. I hate you for that!” was Isner’s joking response.
Tsitsipas Rules Again In Monte Carlo
The first Masters 1000 action of the year on clay saw Tsitsipas break his trophy duck for 2022 with a successful defence of his title at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.
The Greek dropped just one set all week in the Principality. That came against Diego Schwartzman in a Monte Carlo classic to cap a thrilling day of quarter-final action in that saw all four matches go to deciding sets. Tsitsipas squandered a 5-2 lead in the second set, before rallying from 0-4 in the decider to oust the Argentine.
Tsitsipas’ final opponent was Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, the unseeded Spaniard who stunned top seed Djokovic to kick-start a dream run to a maiden Masters 1000 final. Tsitsipas ultimately proved too strong, however, completing a 6-3, 7-6(3) win to become the sixth player to clinch back-to-back Monte Carlo titles.
“I am very proud of myself,” Tsitsipas said after his triumph. “Things weren’t going well at one point, but I managed to stay composed to finish the match off. I am really proud with the belief I put in my game. Sometimes you doubt yourself, but it is always important to keep your head high.”
Djokovic Joins The 1000 Club
Despite that early loss to Davidovich Fokina in Monte Carlo, World No. 1 Djokovic wasn’t down for long in his hunt for a maiden title for 2022.
The Serbian looked back to somewhere near his best in his hometown tournament, the Serbia Open in Belgrade, although he fell just short in the final against Andrey Rublev. A semi-final defeat to eventual champion Alcaraz followed in Madrid but Djokovic was not to be denied as he charged to a record-extending 38th Masters 1000 title at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, seeing off the in-form Tsitsipas in the final.
Lifting the trophy crowned a historic week for Djokovic, whose semi-final victory over Ruud made him the fifth man in the Open Era to reach the milestone of 1,000 tour-level wins.
“I’ve seen Roger [Federer] and Rafa [Nadal] celebrate those milestones in the last couple of years and I was looking forward to get to that 1,000 myself,” said the Serbian. “I’m really, really blessed and privileged to have that many victories on the Tour. It’s been a long time, ever since I won my first match on the Tour. Hopefully I can keep going and many more victories to come.”
Rune Rise Continues
After picking up just two tour-level wins in the first quarter of the season, #NextGenATP star Holger Rune found his rhythm on the European clay.
Just like Alcaraz in Madrid, the Dane celebrated his 19th birthday week by lifting a trophy. Rune stunned top seed Zverev in the second round at the BMW Open by American Express in Munich and didn’t drop a set on his way to a maiden ATP Tour title after Botic van de Zandschulp retired in the championship match.
“I’m super happy, of course,” said Rune. “Not the way I wanted it to end, but if I look through the week, what a week. I played some unbelievable tennis, really fighting my way through it. To be playing here in Munich and winning my first ATP title in front of such a brilliant crowd, I couldn’t really ask for more.”
Rune carried that form to Roland Garros, reaching a first Grand Slam quarter-final by upsetting Tsitsipas in four sets for a statement win on Court Philippe Chatrier. Despite defeat to Ruud in the last eight in Paris, the Dane’s exploits mean he starts his grass season at a career-high No. 28 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, while he sits third in the Pepperstone ATP Race To Milan.
Ruud Roars At Roland Garros
Ruud’s clay-court season started moderately by his high standards as he won just four matches across Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Munich and Madrid. A seven-time tour-level titlist on clay, the Norwegian’s form picked up with a semi-final run in Rome before he successfully defended his title at the Gonet Geneva Open.
That surge continued at Roland Garros. Ruud beat Hubert Hurkacz to reach a maiden Grand Slam quarter-final and the 23-year-old’s momentum then took him past Rune and Marin Cilic to a first tour-level meeting with his childhood idol Nadal in the final. The eighth seed fell in straight sets to the Spaniard, but admitted the occasion would stay with him despite the result.
“He’s a player I have watched on TV for the past 16, 17 years,” said Ruud after the match. “Of course I wish I could make the match closer, but at the end of the day I can hopefully one day tell my grandkids that I played Rafa on Chatrier in the final.”
Former Top 5 Stars Tsonga & Anderson Retire
A highly emotional afternoon on Court Philippe Chatrier saw former World No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga wave goodbye to the ATP Tour with a four-set defeat to eventual finalist Ruud at Roland Garros.
”I spent so many good moments,” said Tsonga, who retired after a memorable 18-year career. “I think the most important thing for me was to live this with people around me, to be able to share the sadness sometimes [and] the happiness. What I will remember is all the relationships I had with people around me. That’s what will stay.”
Eighteen-time tour-level titlist Tsonga was not the only former World No. 5 to announce his retirement this spring. Kevin Anderson, a seven-time Tour titlist and two-time Grand Slam finalist, also called time on his career. “I’ve had ups and downs, but I wouldn’t change it for anything,” wrote the South African on social media in early May. “My journey helped me become the man who I am today.”
Doubles legend Marc Lopez also brought his time playing on the ATP Tour to an end. The veteran Spaniard partnered his nation’s next great hope, Carlos Alcaraz, in the final match of his career in Madrid. Lopez’s 14 tour-level titles included a 2016 Olympic Games gold medal with Nadal, the 2012 Nitto ATP Finals with Marcel Granollers, and the 2016 Roland Garros crown with Feliciano Lopez.
Koolhof/Skupski Lead Doubles Race
The move from hard courts to clay did nothing to halt Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski’s impressive 2022 form. The Dutch-British pairing picked up their fourth ATP Tour title of the year in Madrid, a maiden Masters 1000 success for a duo which only came together at the start of the season.
Koolhof and Skupski lead the way in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Team Rankings. Their closest challengers are Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer, who each made history with their run to the title at Roland Garros. Arevalo became the first Central American man to win a Grand Slam doubles title, while 40-year-old Rojer is now the oldest Grand Slam men’s doubles champion in the Open Era.
Third in the Race are the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked players in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings, Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram. The British-American pairing claimed its maiden clay-court title in Monte Carlo.