1) The extraordinary public: to watch the Campo Centrale finally full again of 10.500 passionate and loud fans gave us shivers that after the pandemic we have been missing more than ever. The difference from the past was that a full house was there not just for the finals. Enthusiast fans came and filled the stands of all courts from the qualifications and helped players performing at their very best on each and every match.
2) Djokovic’s 1000 and one night: the world number one arrived in Rome with many questions to answer and he let the court do the talk. He needed the reach the semi-finals to hold on to his number one spot and he defeated a highly inspired Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets to do it. He needed to get past Casper Ruud to score his 1000th career victory and he simply just did it and enjoyed the cake that came with. But the hunger did not vanish with the dessert, the first title of the year was a much sweeter treat, and little could Stefanos Tsitsipas do to stop him. Djokovic’s 369th week as world number one could have not been any better.
3) Unbeatable Swiatek’s Roman double: back in October 2020, the Pole surprised the world by winning her first ever title on the clay of Roland Garros, two years later she is a surprise no more. Yet, she leaves most of her rivals speechless, because her tennis is ruthless and in Rome she made no exceptions. She dropped no sets en route to her title defence and she leaves for Paris with an open streak of 28 consecutive wins, 5 titles and 13 bagels served since the start of the year. Most thought that the retirement of Ash Barty would have left shoes too big to fill, but Swiatek had other plans, clearly.
4) Sinner the adopted gladiator: when the forfeit of Matteo Berrettini left all the pressure of the demanding Italian crowd to the young shoulders of Jannik Sinner, the guy did not crumble. The alpine youngster, with his red hair and fox logo, fired up the crowd with his explosive tennis and filled the stadiums he played in on each match: from the generational derby with Fabio Fognini to the quarter-final with Stefanos Tsitsipas. His run might have ended with the Greek, but he won a place in the hearts of the Roman fans.
5) Rafa like Achilles, the foot let him down: it was a painful scene to see the defending champion in distress during his match again Denis Shapovalov. Hampered, hindered, yet untamed, Nadal kept fighting and trying, but his left foot did not let him play the way he wanted. His words on that evening left immense sadness and one cannot but hope that he finds a solution for this problem as soon as possible.
6) Isnerman: it may sound like a superhero, but it is not. It’s two! One is 2.08m tall, the other is “just” 1.70m. If felt like straight out of comics when John Isner and Diego Schwartzman first walked on court together to play doubles as a team, but soon they showed that this odd pair had all it takes. They reached the final, defeating former world number one pair Cabal-Farah, and only an experienced team like Croats Metkic-Pavic could stop them.
7) Ons Jabeur, dropshops and ‘Daje’: The Tunisian came to the opening press conference and immediately won the hearts of many local fans by screaming “Daje” (very Roman encouragement). She arrived right after her first ever 1000 tournament victory in Madrid and in Rome she proved that it was not by chance. Her variety and skills soon made her a crowd favourite and even if she ran out of steam by the time she had to face Swiatek in the final, her week was more than memorable.
8) Bolelli-Fognini double love: slam winners in 2015, the team seemed to have had their best days in the past, but in this 2022 edition of Rome, they found the chemistry it takes to be successful again. They reached the semi-finals and most of all fired up the Italian crowd who rediscovered how much fun doubles can be.
9) A learning chance for Tsitsipas: it was over before he had hoped for. After a great victory over Alexander Zverev in the penultimate act of the tournament, Tsitsipas wanted to go one step further, but his first ever Rome final proved sour. It was the 12th loss in the final act of a tournament out of the 20 he has reached and just like at Roland Garros last year, it was Novak Djokovic to serve it. He has won Monte Carlo, reached the final in Rome and semi-final in Madrid, yet the Greek said he does not see himself as a favourite for the slam coming up next and admits he has still a long way to go before learning what it takes to match the champions.
10) The “pre-qualies” squad: the prequalifications of the tournaments might seem like a story from the days long gone, but looking back at the emotion and passion that filled the courts right before the start of the official tournament, it is no surprise that the ones that got out of that pre-tournament battled with their hearts out in both the qualifications and main draw. Giulio Zeppieri got his first big run after defeating two top-100 players like Molcan and Cressy to qualify for the main draw, where he challenged world number 24 Karen Kachanov. A dream come true and maybe an inspiration to go even further.