The Plot Thickens Heading into Roland Garros 2022

Few Grand Slams have had as many plotlines unfolding concurrently, as Roland Garros 2022.

With play starting in a little over a week, the jury is still out on how Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have recovered from their respective time off over the last two months. Daniil Medvedev is also set to make a return from injury, albeit cutting it very fine in time to make the French Open. Meanwhile, teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz is taking the tennis world by storm, winning everything he touches, while Stephanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev are battling to remain relevant as Grand Slam threats, and Ruud is falling short of expectations on clay this season.

And that’s not even mentioning the recent resurgence of old hands Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov, or the impending Next Gen stars Jannik Sinner and Denis Shapovalov.

With so little time remaining until that first serve crashes onto the clay of Roland Garros, what can the next eight days tell us about which player is a good bet to take down the title at this year’s second Grand Slam?

Thankfully, we don’t need to look far—this coming weekend should bring some clarity on several of these unfolding plotlines, as the Rome Masters 1000 begins its final weekend.

Here are three things to look for at this weekend’s Rome Masters, followed by our pick for who to put money on heading into Roland Garros 2022:

Has Djokovic regained full fitness?

Rewind the clock three weeks, and Novak Djokovic was a sorry sight to behold. The Serb wilted miserably in the third set of the Serbian Open final against Rublev, bitterly disappointing home fans as he limped to a 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-0 loss.

However, last week, Djokovic pushed the youthful Alcaraz for three hours and thirty-six minutes, coming up just short 7-6(5) in the third set.

Is this a sign of Djokovic regaining full match fitness ahead of the French Open? It’s looking positive, and although best-of-five set matches are a different story to three-setters, if Djokovic can make another deep run in Rome this weekend, and even take down the title, fans can have confidence that the Djokovic of old has returned at the perfect time.

Are we finally seeing the aging Next Gen stars reach their prime?

Tsitsipas, Zverev and Medvedev were supposed to dethrone the Big Three about five years ago.

It never happened.

But are they finally maturing to be legitimate Grand Slam threats? Medvedev certainly is, having won his first at last year’s US Open, though Zverev and Tsitsipas are yet to live up to the high expectations placed on them from a young age.

One thing is for sure: If either player is to have a shot at claiming their first Grand Slam title, they’ll have to be high on confidence. Look for a semi-final match in the bottom half of the men’s draw at the Rome Masters this weekend, where the two are on track to meet—this should be a good indicator of who will carry the most confidence into Roland Garros.

Can Ruud hit the kind of form many expected of him this season?

Going into the European clay season, many expected Ruud to be a genuine threat—last year, he made two Masters 1000 level semi-finals on clay, and has only developed his game since then.

To date though, his results have been disappointing, having suffered several early losses, and being thoroughly dispatched by Carlos Alcaraz in the only final he made.

However, he’s still alive in the Rome draw, and on track for a semi-final meeting with Djokovic, provided each player takes care of their lower seeded quarter-final opponents. Can Ruud revive his clay court season with an inaugural victory over Novak?

Should he do so, he may re-enter the conversation as a contender at Roland Garros.

Our pick for Roland Garros 2022

All signs are pointing towards one of Alcaraz, Nadal or Djokovic taking down the second Slam of the year.

Should he win convincingly this weekend, we have Djokovic as a slight favorite, with Alcaraz close behind. The young Spaniard will be well rested and full of confidence after a week off; while the older Spaniard, Nadal, is looking less and less likely, after his round of 16 loss in Rome highlighted some serious fitness concerns.

But, you never write off Rafa in Paris…