WIMBLEDON, England — It was an eventful Championships here at the All England Club. There were upsets aplenty mixed in with racket smashing and history. Now that we’ve had a few hours to soak in everything we just saw, let’s take stock by dishing out some grades.
Serena Williams: A-plus. This was the tournament that Serena needed. She did not waltz to the title, nor did her opponents bow at her very presence and intimidation. No, much as her comeback from injury and near-death illness has required, Serena had to work. Her sense of vulnerability — both on and off the court — was apparent and all credit to the WTA field for sensing it. Zheng Jie pushed Serena to 9-7 in the third set, Yaroslava Shvedova took her to 7-5 in the third, and Agnieszka Radwanska bounced back from almost getting bageled in the first set to make Serena start doubting. And that’s when Serena said enough and remembered who she was. Four aces in a 49-second game that completely changed the match. And with that, through all the struggle and turmoil, Serena Williams was back.
Roger Federer: A-plus. Federer made his triumphant return to No. 1 by putting on a God-like display of tennis in the final. In doing so, he put a cap on what has been a superb 10 months of tennis, where he’s proven that at his best, he’s still the best the game has ever seen. This wasn’t a case of an old, decrepit 30-year old throwing in one last hurrah and crossing the finish line, giving the public one last chance to applaud him. No, that performance was proof that the greatest tennis player to ever swing a racket still has magic in him and we can (and should) expect even more.
Andy Murray: A-plus. You could feel the dread bubbling in everyone’s bellies as Murray took the court on Sunday. Was the guy finally going to show up and play or would he succumb, as he has done in his three previous Slam finals, to the pressure. But there he was, standing toe-to-toe with Federer, landing blows of his own and refusing to give up. It was a defining moment in Murray’s career, one that changed the perception of him both within the tennis world and outside of it. His classy and emotional concession speech finally let the world see how much it all means to him, and his tennis showed that he is indeed getting closer.
Agnieszka Radwanska: A-plus. The woman whose game and complete lack of affectation inspires tennis writers all around the globe to scribble love letters to her own brand of thoughtful offense did herself proud in the women’s final. No one gave her a chance (the poll in our live-blog had 100% picking Serena in two sets) and yet there she was, calmly taking the second set. And as an added bonus, after rising to the No. 2 ranking, she won’t be seeing Victoria Azarenka on the same side of the draw for a while. Phew.
Maria Sharapova: B-minus. There was bound to be a let-down after her clay triumph and there’s no shame in losing to an in-form Sabine Lisicki on grass. Then again, after all the ink laid down trumpeting the return of stability to the WTA, her early exit and loss of the No. 1 ranking means a return to turmoil.
Tamira Paszek: A. I repeat, heading into the grass season Paszek had two wins. For the entire year. Then she fights to win Eastbourne (scoring two top 10 wins over Marion Bartoli and Angelique Kerber), comes into Wimbledon to upset Caroline Wozniacki in a tense first-round affair, and makes it all the way to the quarterfinals. To top it all off, the ITF confirmed her Olympic eligibility and she’ll be back at the All England Club to represent Austria. That’s some good work.
Victoria Azarenka: B-plus. Vika moved oh-so-stealthily through the draw, even dropping a 6-1, 6-0 beatdown on Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round. But she just didn’t have the game (though who does?) to truly bother Serena in the semifinals. Given all the questions surrounding her form coming into Wimbledon, she did well to defend her semifinal points and retake the top ranking.
Kim Clijsters: B. A fourth-round farewell at her final Wimbledon exceeded expectations. A 6-1, 6-1 loss to Angelique Kerber did not.
Petra Kvitova: B-plus. I don’t really understand the year Kvitova is having because it seems like it’s been sub-par and yet she’s made deep runs at every single Slam this year. If Slams are what matter then it’s time to reassess the read on Kvitova, who brought her A-game against Serena in the quarterfinals in what was for me, the most exciting women’s match of the year. Sure, it only lasted 84 minutes and it was a straight set win for Serena. Yet the match was first-strike power tennis at it’s finest.
Angelique Kerber: B. Kudos to another Slam semifinal for Kerber. Though, if you think Andy Murray gets a lot of stick for negative body language, cue up the tape of Kerber in the third set against Lisicki in the quarterfinals.
Jonny Marray/Frederik Nielsen: A. A Brit in his 30s winning a Wimbledon title as a wildcard? I think I’ve seen this before.
Lukas Rosol: A. The memory that will stick with me as I leave London will be No. 100 Lukas Rosol hitting winner after winner and nailing ace after audacious ace to close out Rafael Nadal in the fifth set of his game-changing second round upset. At least I hope it’s game-changing. It was refreshing to see a low-ranked guy take it to Nadal, try to get in his head and truly believe he could win. That a feat like that was a refreshing sight speaks volumes about the lack of belief we so often see in the lower ranks of the men’s game.
Novak Djokovic: B. There’s no shame to losing to Federer on grass, but there was something off about him in his semifinal loss and it wasn’t all that dissimilar to how he came out against Nadal in the French Open final. He’s come out to these matches tight and that killer instinct, the one we saw in Australia, has been lacking.
Mardy Fish: B. Who knows what happens if Fish’s fourth-round match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga doesn’t get interrupted by rain after Fish was a set up. When the match resumed the next day, Tsonga raised his level and Fish couldn’t match him. Still, this was more than anyone would have expected from Mardy since being diagnosed with a scary heart problem. Kudos to him for making the second week.
John Isner, D: Big John still hasn’t progressed past the second week at Wimbledon in his career. No matter how big your serve, if you can’t break, you’re doomed.
Rafael Nadal, D: Earliest Grand Slam exit since 2005. ‘Nuff said.
Andy Roddick: B. I always gasp when I see Roddick take a fall these days because for months it looked like his body was ready to tap out at every stop, start and slip. From the looks of it, he’s been able to get himself healthy enough to where he can stop worrying about his injuries and focus on his game. The results were obvious. Roddick is finally playing good tennis again and there was a lot to like about how he came out against David Ferrer in the their fourth-round clash.
David Ferrer: B-plus. I’m with Murray on this one. Let’s stop calling Ferrer a clay-court specialist.
Lisa Raymond/Mike Bryan: A. The pair captured their third mixed-doubles title together and leave Wimbledon as the front-runners for a medal at the Olympics. That’s if they’ll play together. I don’t envy U.S. team captains Mary Jo Fernandez and Jay Berger. They’ll have to decide which two teams will play mixed doubles from a lot that includes Serena, Venus, Roddick, Isner, the Bryans, Raymond and Huber.
Elena Vesnina and Robert Lindstedt: D. Vesnina is now 0-5 in Slam doubles finals (losing the mixed this year with Leander Paes) and Lindstedt lost his third straight Wimbledon doubles final. This says it all.
Young Canadians: A. Junior success is never a guarantee, but there’s something to look forward to from our neighbors to the north, as Genie Bouchard became the first Canadian to win a junior singles title and 24 hours later Filip Peliwo won the boys title.
Gilles Simon: D. You re-open a can of worms by saying women shouldn’t earn equal prize money, then you lose in straight sets in the second round to a guy with a ponytail. There is humor there.
The Wimbledon roof: B. Call me crazy, but on the whole I think the organizers did a fine job throughout the tournament when deciding when to close the roof. Fans complained that the roof should have been closed before matches due to threats of rain, but this is an outdoor tournament and credit to them for trying to keep it that way. The one snafu: The one day they did close the roof and it was dry all day. Can’t have that. Oh, and the roof has a Twitter account.
The 126th Championships: A-plus. From Day 1 to Day 13, this was the most entertaining Wimbledon since Goran Ivanisevic’s title-win in 2001, and even then 2012 might take the cake. It was a perfect balance of no-names making good (Brian Baker, Tamira Paszek, and Jonathan Marray/Frederik Nielsen) to the game’s best revealing their character (Serena, Roger, Andy, and Aga), the fortnight was never missing the drama.