The Report Card hands out grades for the week in tennis. This week saw a few notable names on both tours reach the winner’s circle.
Venus Williams: A-plus. When Venus Williams sets a goal, you can pretty much be sure she’ll hit it. And when she made her return to the tour in March, Venus made it clear the only reason she came back was to try to qualify for the Olympics. Ranked No. 134 at the time, it looked like a daunting task. But there she was in London, winning a gold medal in doubles with her sister, having qualified via a grueling clay season. So with that out of the way, why in the world would Venus, who had not played a tournament since the U.S. Open, choose to hop on a plane to play a low-level WTA tournament in Luxembourg to end her year? To try to accumulate enough ranking points to ensure that she’ll go into the Australian Open as a Top 32 seed, which would make her life — and the other seeds’ lives — easier. Mission accomplished and then some. Going into Luxembourg unseeded, Venus walked away with her first title in over two years, beating top-seeded Roberta Vinci, a resurgent Andrea Petkovic and repeat finalist Monica Niculescu. The win vaulted her from No. 41 to No. 24 in the rankings, just a few spots shy of Varvara Lepchenko (No. 21) as the No. 2 American behind sister Serena.
Tomas Berdych: A. Berdych became the sixth man to qualify for the ATP’s World Tour Finals after picking up his second title of the year in Stockholm, where he came back from a set down to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. After a bit of a dip in the early part of the summer — that first-round loss to Ernests Gulbis at Wimbledon seems like ages ago — he’s now made the quarterfinals or better at his last five tournaments. A strong push through Paris and the WTFs and Berdych could end the year at No. 5. He’s only 555 points behind David Ferrer in the year-end rankings, though Ferrer is playing Valencia this week.
Caroline Wozniacki: A. One of the key stats when trying to evaluate the state of Woz’s game is her record in three-set matches. It’s a good indicator of her success and confidence at any given moment, and that stat tells the story of her 2012 season. During her two years atop the WTA rankings, she had a three-set record of 18-4 in 2010 and 11-7 in 2011. Through the U.S. Open this year, Wozniacki was 6-8 in three set matches, at one point losing back-to-back-to-back three-setters at the French Open, Eastbourne and Wimbledon. Since the U.S. Open she’s 8-1 when her matches go the distance, including three straight wins last week in Moscow on the way to her second title of the year and 20th of her career. That’s a nice turnaround for the Dane, who needs to be able to rely on her legs and her fight to battle her way back up the rankings.
Juan Martin del Potro: A. Thankfully for DelPo, things got decidedly easier for him in Vienna after his record-setting match against Daniel Brands, where the two served more than 30 aces each. Once he got that first match in the can, the Argentine rolled to his third title of the year, beating surprise finalist Grega Zemlja 7-5, 6-3 in the final. It’s a solid performance after a month spent rehabilitating a left wrist injury.
Andreas Seppi: A. Let’s give it up for one of the nice guys. As evidenced by his new career-high ranking of No. 22, the 28-year-old Italian is playing some of the best tennis of his career this year. Seppi captured his second title of the year last week in Moscow, beating Thomaz Bellucci 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 in the final.
Andrea Petkovic: A. Is the comeback on? Overshadowed by Venus’ drought-ending run in Luxembourg was Petkovic’s first semifinal berth of the year, stringing together three good wins — most notably a 7-5, 6-0 thrashing of Jelena Jankovic — to earn a shot at Venus in the semis. It wasn’t a pretty match, but Petkovic pushed it to 4-4 in the third set before Venus broke and served it out. But with the off-season coming up, this is just the result Petkovic needed to stay motivated as she works her way back from injury.
Mike and Bob Bryan: A. For the fourth straight year the Brothers Bryan will finish the year atop the ATP doubles ranking. That’s pretty darn good.
Monica Niculescu: B-plus. She was no match for Venus in the Luxembourg final, but Niculescu gets some credit for defending her finalist points and avoiding a severe tumble in the rankings after what has been an otherwise forgettable year.
Sam Stosur: C. Props to Stosur for ending the year on a generally positive note by making the Moscow final, where she lost 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 to Wozniacki in a match that could have gone either way. But the loss means Stosur will end the year without a title for the first time since 2008.
Grega Zemlja: A. How unlikely was it that Zemlja would make his first ATP final in Vienna? Ranked No. 70 at the start of the tournament, Zemlja had spent most of his year on the ATP Challenger circuit and had won only seven tour-level matches all year. But he worked his way through qualifying before beating Xavier Malisse, Matthew Ebden, Tommy Haas and Janko Tipsarevic to get his first top 20 and top 10 wins of his career.
Malek Jaziri: A. Ranked at No. 112, Jaziri became the first Tunisian to make an ATP semifinal in Moscow.