Tennis men’s World No 1 Novak Djokovic says memories of last year’s French Open triumph give him ‘goosebumps’ and will spur him on in his pursuit of a third title at Roland Garros and record-equalling 21st major.

In a top-heavy French Open draw, Djokovic is seeded to meet Nadal in the quarter-finals before potentially taking on Spanish teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz in the semis.

Also read: French Open: Carlos Alcaraz’s wins of change blow towards Paris

Rafael Nadal lost to Djokovic in the semi-finals 12 months ago, but has an astonishing record of 105 victories against just three defeats at the tournament since his title-winning debut in 2005.

He has played down concerns over the chronic foot issue that resurfaced in Rome last week after the Spaniard limped to a third-round loss to Denis Shapovalov at the Italian Open, but practised in front of thousands of fans at Roland Garros on Wednesday without any obvious discomfort.

Meanwhile women’s world number one Iga Swiatek said on Friday that she was prepared for her 28-match winning streak to be snapped at the French Open, in the sense that being aware of that possibility is “pretty healthy”.

Swiatek, in red-hot form, will attempt to lift the trophy for the second time. She replaced Barty at the top of the rankings at the start of April. She hasn’t lost since February and her winning run is the longest on the WTA tour since Serena Williams won 34 matches in a row in 2013.

Naomi Osaka, however, admitted on Friday that she was “worried” over her return to the French Open, fearing she had “offended” people when she controversially quit the 2021 tournament.

Here’s a look at who’s saying what ahead of Roland Garros 2022:

I feel I am always in that contention to fight for any Grand Slam trophy. I believe in my own abilities to get far and to fight for one of the most prestigious trophies. As a defending champion of course more so, to believe I can do it again. 

Reliving the memories from last year is something that obviously gives me goose bumps and motivation to try to replicate that. Historically it always has required some time and several tournaments to really feel comfortable playing on clay. Rarely did I feel my best on clay in the first or second tournament in the season. So that was the case this season again. It took me two tournaments to really feel that I’m getting closer to desired level. I reached that level in Rome. 

We talk about favourites for Roland Garros and clay, and Nadal always has to be right at the top, because of his records particularly in this tournament. And then you have Alcaraz that obviously is the story of men’s tennis in the last four or five months with a big reason. He’s had some tremendous leaps forward on rankings and the results that he’s been achieving are phenomenal for someone of his age. He has made a quantum jump really forward in the last five, six months.

— World No 1 Novak Djokovic on his return to Grand Slam action after his high-profile deportation from Australia and favourites Nadal and Alcaraz

I’m aware that this streak is something that may be coming to an end soon, so I don’t want to be like heartbroken when it’s going to happen. I think being aware of that is pretty healthy. I haven’t played a Grand Slam since the streak started. So I guess we’re going to see if everything I have been doing before is going to be enough. 

But I have really positive thoughts. I’m more relaxed. I proved to myself and to other people that I can be in the top of the game, and before I wasn’t feeling that much confidence, so this year I feel much more peace. The world has changed, for sure.

I feel like with my new ranking, people around are treating me a little bit differently. But I feel like I’m staying the same player and the same person. Still I feel like there is a lot to improve, so I think these are the main keys that this is my base that I’m leaning on. 

— World No 1 Iga Swiatek on her title winning streak ahead of the French Open

There is nothing to recover. What happened in Rome is something that happened very often in my practices. I was suffering after that for a couple of days, but I feel better. That’s why I’m here. The pain is there always. It’s not going to disappear now. It’s about if the pain is high and strong enough to allow me to play with real chances or not. It’s something that I live every day with, so it’s nothing new for me and is not a big surprise. So I am here just to play tennis and to try to make the best result possible here in Roland Garros. And if I don’t believe that this thing can happen, probably I will not be here.

I just enjoyed all my tennis career to be where I am, and I always feel very privileged and lucky to have the chance to enjoy all the experiences that I am enjoying and I am living because of this sport. And here I am in Roland Garros, another year. It is a place I know well. It is a place that I consider the most important one in my tennis career, without a doubt, and with a lot of positive memories.

— Rafael Nadal on his chronic foot issue that resurfaced in Rome last week and the special place that is Roland Garros


I’m not going to lie. Like when I first came here, I was very worried. I was just kind of worried that there were people that I offended some way and I would just kind of bump into them. Of course I also didn’t like how I handled the situation. I was also very worried about this press conference, because I knew I’d get a lot of questions. 

I think for me where I am right now, I wouldn’t want to say it hasn’t left my mind. Of course I’m still thinking about it, and I’m kind of also prepping just in case I go on the court and a fan says something like in Indian Wells. Yeah, for the most part I think I’m okay. I kind of feel I was funnier back then. 

Like I used to be able to say jokes and not really care if anyone got it. I could reexplain the joke and whatever. I feel like the thing that’s changed is like me trying to figure out the crowd. I feel like I’m a standup comedian and I’m trying to figure out what’s okay and what’s not okay. 

— Naomi Osaka on returning to Roland Garros after she was fined and threatened with a Grand Slam ban for refusing to honour media commitments in 2021

I just watched Rafa practise and it’s funny because all of a sudden his forehand is just 20 miles an hour faster. He moves lighter on his feet. There is something about this court that makes him play 30% better, just being on this court. I think Novak right now, as well, he’s finding his form again. He’s been playing better and better each week that he’s been playing on the clay courts. He’s been playing fantastic in Rome. Those two guys (Djokovic and Nadal) are still the No. 1 and 2 favourites for me. (On Carlos Alcaraz) It takes a lot more than just playing good tennis to win a Grand Slam. The dream of winning a Grand Slam. That’s what the biggest difference is. We start playing tennis because we want to win the biggest titles in the world. 

— Alexander Zverev on favourites Djokovic and Nadal and hype around teen sensation Alcaraz

And finally, we will leave you with this:

Quotes as reported by AFP