The Report Card hands out grades for the week in tennis. Last week the tours had stops in Tokyo, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.
Richard Gasquet: A. The fickle Frenchman captured his seventh career title in Bangkok, his first title in over two years. That’s a remarkable figure considering he’s contested 17 finals in his career, a testament both to his talent and his inability to come through under pressure. Still, it was a solid week for Gasquet, who scored wins over Grigor Dimitrov, Bernard Tomic, Jarkko Nieminen and Gilles Simon, beating his talented compatriot 6-2, 6-1 in the final. All in all, Gasquet is having a good year, making it to the Round of 16 at all four Slams and the finals of three ATP tournaments. He was due to make good at least once this season.
Nadia Petrova: A. The Russian scored three straight top 10 wins in Tokyo, beating Sara Errani, Sam Stosur and Agnieszka Radwanska to claim the biggest title of her career. Petrova showed some impressive mental strength — not exactly her strong suit — in bouncing back after getting blitzed in the second set, beating Radwanska 6-0, 1-6, 6-3. Commentating for Tennis Channel, Lindsay Davenport, who held a 7-0 record against Petrova during her playing days, sounded unconvinced that Petrova could come back to win the match, even after taking the first set in a bagel. That tells you everything you need to know about the 30-year-old Russian’s reputation for imploding under pressure. This was a huge win for her and further validation that her partnership with Ricardo Sanchez was a good move.
Juan Monaco: A. Monaco tallied his fourth title of the year in Kuala Lumpur, beating Julien Benneteau 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in the final. It’s been a breakout year for Monaco, who’s posted steady results through the year including a semifinal appearance in Miami in April. It’s a solid bounce-back for Monaco, who just choked away a two-sets-to-one lead over Tomas Berdych at home in the Davis Cup semifinal, essentially sealing Argentina’s fate. In securing his first hard-court title of the year, Monaco got himself back into the top 10, pushing John Isner down to No. 11.
Gilles Simon: B. In the same week that Simon made his first hard-court final since Sydney last year, the FFT announced that Simon had parted ways with long time coach Thierry Tulasne and will go it alone for the foreseeable future. I guess Gilles is taking a page from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s book, with the latter going coach-less for over a year since his split with Eric Winogradsky last spring. It’s too soon to say if the decision will pay off, but one thing ‘s for sure: It’s been four years since Simon has looked like the top five world beater he can be. Remember 2008, when he beat Rafael Nadal in Madrid, Roger Federer in Toronto and Novak Djokovic in Marseille? I’d love to see him play more aggressively, but something tells me going coach-less will just mean more defensive counterpunching.
Agnieszka Radwanska: B-plus. Honestly, given the field in Tokyo I didn’t think Radwanska had a shot at defending her finalist points from 2011. But once the field fell apart with early losses from Kvitova and Sharapova, and Azarenka’s withdrawal due to illness, Radwanska took advantage. She didn’t drop a set en route to the final, beating Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki easily. That said, she was feeling the pressure in the final, as she found Petrova in the zone, painting lines. Once again, the concern about Radwanska is that she can be hit through, which Petrova showed. But on the whole, it was a good week as she retained her No. 3 ranking by making the finals. Can she do it again as the defending champion in Beijing this week?
The U.S. Junior Fed Cup Team: A. Led by Taylor Townsend, the young Americans won the Junior Fed Cup title in Barcelona, beating Russia.
Julien Benneteau: B. Can I just presume that when I write “Frenchman” y’all know I also mean to imply the word “flashy”? It gets a bit redundant otherwise. Benneteau gets major props for rolling past top-seeded David Ferrer 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals of Kuala Lumpur.
Maria Sharapova: C. If there was any top player who looked completely out of it in Tokyo, it was Sharapova. The World No. 2 struggled past Heather Watson and Lucie Safarova in her first two matches before losing to Sam Stosur for just the second time in her career. Frustrated, out of rhythm, and exhausted — coach Thomas Hogstedt mentioned a tired shoulder during a coaching timeout — Sharapova displayed more negative emotion than we’re used to seeing. It seems the grueling 2012 season has finally worn down even the steeliest of competitors.
Caroline Wozniacki: B. After grabbing her first title of the season in Seoul, the Dane notched her first top 10 win of the season over Li Na in Tokyo. She needed three sets to get through Bojana Jovanovski and Li, but I consider those wins a positive development, given her propensity to come out on the losing side of these types of matches through the year.
Petra Kvitova: D. As of Monday, Kvitova won only one match in Asia, having lost her first match in Tokyo to Petra Martic in straight sets and then falling to Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round of Beijing. Kvitova is apparently suffering from a stomach virus, which amounts to even more bad luck for a player who has been saddled with injury and illness through much of the year.
Milos Raonic: C. The Canuck failed to make his anticipated Slam breakthrough this year. And losing in straight sets to Nieminen in the Bangkok quarterfinals is definitely falling below grade.
Gael Monfils: B. Another strong showing from Monfils in his second tournament back, this time making the quarterfinals of Bangkok. Unfortunately he withdrew from Tokyo this week, complaining of knee pain. Not good.
Ricardo Sanchez: D. Sanchez dropped the F-bomb during a coaching timeout with his charge, Petrova, during the semifinals (warning: video contains said F-bomb). Can Tennis Channel invoice him for any subsequent FCC fines?
Sabine Lisicki: D. Another first-round loss in Beijing meant Lisicki hadn’t won a match since the Olympics, going 0-4 in that span. She finally picked up a win in Beijing over the weekend.
Andrea Petkovic: D. Harsh grade? Yes, and trust me, I feel horrible about it. But Petkovic’s first-round loss in Beijing to Jelena Jankovic means she’ll drop out of the top 100, staying barely inside the top 200. Does Petko have the mental strength to mount a comeback in 2013? I wouldn’t fault her if she didn’t.
Redfoo: A. He has been everywhere, which is good or bad depending on your affinity for his party jams, but his involvement with the Party Rock Open in Las Vegas, a $50K ITF challenger, was a huge success. I hope he sticks around.
Serena Williams: C. Serena scored an A when it comes to strategic tweeting, but do we actually believe her? First she implied that the rumors regarding her relationship with coach Patrick Mouratoglou were fabricated by the paparazzi (Serena honey, your hand was down his back pocket). Then she conveniently tweeted she had the flu after the China Open broke the news that she had withdrawn from the tournament. A few days later she was tweeting about being on a flight and losing luggage.
Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears: A. The Americans doubles team won the Tokyo title and closed the gap on the fourth qualifying spot for the WTA Championships.
Lauren Davis: A. The 18-year-old won the aforementioned $50K in Las Vegas and cracks the top 100 for the first time of her career, making her the fifth teenager in the top 100.