The Report Card hands out grades for the week in tennis. This week, David Ferrer stepped up to win the Paris Masters and Czechs defending their Fed Cup title with a win over Serbia.
David Ferrer: A. You always got the sense that Ferrer would need things to break his way in order to capture his first ATP Masters 1000 title. After all, the Big Four have had a stranglehold on the prestigious events. But that’s precisely what happened in Paris, where “The Dogged Terrier” — that’s every Ferrer cliche rolled into one, right? — took advantage of a top-notch field that fell apart early. In doing so, Ferrer became the first non-Big Four Masters champ since Robin Soderling won here in 2010. His highest ranked opponent on the week was Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who he dispatched in straight sets, and then rolled over No. 121 Michael Llodra in the semis and No. 69 ranked Jerzy Janowicz in the final. His path may not have been the toughest we’ve seen, but it’s well-deserved for a guy who lost his previous two Masters finals to Rafael Nadal (clay) and Andy Murray (hard).
Jerzy Janowicz: A-plus. Ferrer may have won the tournament in Paris, but a 21-year-old qualifier was the story of the week. We know that many pro players, regardless of ranking, are capable of one good day when their game looks touched by God. Pay a thought to Lukas Rosol, who came out nowhere to knock out Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. Two days after he pulled off the upset of the year, Rosol lost quietly on an outer court to Phillip Kohlschreiber. It was an understandable letdown, but it illustrates why Janowicz’s Paris run was so exciting.
The six-foot-eight Polish powerhouse actually sustained his form, match after match, wowing everyone with his deft touch, booming serve and audacious groundstrokes to decimate the draw and make his first ATP final, a Masters tournament no less (he had never even been past a quarterfinal before). After winning two matches to qualify for the main draw, Janowicz recorded his first top 20 win, beating Phil Kohlschreiber in the first round, before reeling off four more. In order, he beat Marin Cilic, Andy Murray, Janko Tipsarevic, and Gilles Simon to make the final, where the magic ran out and he lost to David Ferrer. Janowicz couldn’t believe it, fans and pundits couldn’t believe it, but for over a week he hit shots that made your jaw drop and left opponents scratching their heads.
Check out these two droppers he hit:
Through it all Janowicz looked overwhelmed by his performance and looked humbled by how much of a career-maker this week was. Unsponsored, Janowicz couldn’t afford to fly to Melbourne for the Aussie Open and has spent the year bouncing between tour and challenger events to get his ranking up. His week in Paris earned him about $300,000, tripling his earnings for the year, and he’s launched himself from No. 69 to No. 26. With the name, the game, and the charisma, let’s get this guy a sponsorship, folks.
Here he is breaking down on Sky Sports after beating Simon. Touching stuff.
The Czech Fed Cup Team: A. In the end the Serbs just didn’t have the firepower to fend off the Czech team, headed by Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova, and the Czechs defended their title with a 3-1 win. That wasn’t entirely a surprise. The surprise the heroine of the weekend was not the team’s No. 1 Kvitova, but Safarova. With a chance to clinch on Sunday, Kvitova struggled against a zoned out Ivanovic, which meant Safarova would have to beat Jelena Jankovic in order to avoid the tie coming down to the ever unpredictable doubles. No problem for Safarova. She rolled over Jankovic 6-1, 6-1, to give the Czechs the title. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer team.
Nadia Petrova: A. What a month and a half for Petrova. The former No. 3 wins the biggest title of her career in Tokyo and then finished her season by capturing the WTA’s Tournament of Champions — a.k.a. the secondary year-end championships — by blasting past Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-1 for her 13th career title. Now 30 years old, Petrova’s relatively recent decision to partner with Ricardo Sanchez looks to be paying off. If she can stay healthy we could see a career revival in 2013.
Sam Querrey: B-plus. The American fired down 18 aces to upset Novak Djokovic in the second round of Paris, and backed that up with a straight-set win over Milos Raonic one round later. If he had gone on to win Paris — which wasn’t out of the question given his form and the rapidly shrinking field — he would have overtaken John Isner as the top-ranked American. As it is, Querrey will finish the year ranked No. 22 after losing to Llodra in the quarterfinals. That’s a solid workmanlike effort from a guy who started the year barely in the top 100.
The rest of the London Eight: D. What the heck, guys? Roger withdraws after losing the Basel final, Novak and Andy lose early, and Janko Tipsarevic retires down 1-4 in the third to Janowicz citing “sudden fatigue.” If not for Janowicz’s miracle run, Paris would have been a complete bust.
Caroline Wozniacki: C. The Woz looked poised to finish off her season strong, with titles in Seoul and Moscow, and she made the final of the Tournament of Champions by only dropping a set. Then she only managed to win three games in the final. There is a silver lining to the week though: Welcome back to the top 10, Caroline.
Ana Ivanovic: B-plus. For the third straight year, the streaky, struggling, but slowly getting it together Serb wins her final match of the year, this time in the pressure cooker of a deciding rubber in the Fed Cup final. Her level while beating Kvitova for one of the biggest wins of her year was, at times, as good as her Slam contending days. Lots to build on for coach Nigel Sears during the off-season. 2013 is primed to be a turning point (good or bad) for her career.
Bernard Tomic: F. Not only will he end the year as the Australian No. 2 behind Marinko Matosevic, but Tomic the Tank Engine turned into Tomic the Submarine when he allegedly got into a scuffle with a friend in a hot tub and the cops were called. I look forward to the day when I get to talk about Tomic’s crafty brand of tennis again. Until then, these run-ins are getting old.