The Report Card hands out grades for the week in tennis
Petra Kvitova: A-plus. The Dubai champion built on the previous week’s three-set loss to Serena Williams in Doha, which was her best match in more than a year. She dropped only one set in Dubai, in the final against Sara Errani, beating three top-10 players in Errani, Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska. She won her first title since the New Haven Open last August by doing what she does best, rendering her opponents mere spectators as she blasted winner after winner. Kvitova improved to 10-2 in finals and moved up one spot to No. 7.
Kvitova’s run was a much-needed reminder of what the WTA would (or should) look like if the Czech can rediscover her 2011 form. In the current WTA landscape, Kvitova is a top-four player with the firepower to challenge Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova. Much ink has been devoted to her 2012 slump, but it bears reminding that the “slump” included two Grand Slam semifinals, one major quarterfinal and two titles. Looking fitter and more confident, she’s primed for a charge up the rankings over the next six months.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: A-plus. Tsonga saved six match points to win his first 2013 title, in Marseille, five against Bernard Tomic in the quarterfinals and one against Tomas Berdych in the final, which he won 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4. He ended a three-match losing skid to Berdych. Tsonga’s resiliency supports the theory that his new partnership with Roger Rasheed is as much a boon to his mental game as his physical one.
Kei Nishikori: A. Special Kei won the Memphis lottery — the tournament was an ATP 500 without a single top-10 player — by beating top seed Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals and Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 6-3 in the final. He’s up six spots to No. 16, just one off his career high.
David Ferrer: A. The No. 1 Spaniard defended his Buenos Aires title with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 win over Stanislas Wawrinka in the final. Ferrer, who is 17-2 this year, collected his 20th career title and 10th on clay.
Jelena Jankovic: B-plus. The good news: Jankovic won her first tournament in almost three years and snapped an 0-5 streak in finals by besting Paula Ormaechea 6-1, 6-2 in Bogota. The bad news: that this is a notable accomplishment, given she faced only one top-100 player and was pushed to three sets by No. 124 Julia Cohen and No. 133 Karin Knapp.
Marina Erakovic: A. Erakovic became the first Kiwi to win a WTA title since 1989, winning in Memphis after Sabine Lisicki retired trailing 1-6. The 24-year-old Erakovic climbed from No. 71 to No. 62 after a week in which she had to save match point in her first-round victory against Annika Beck.
Dmitry Tursunov: A. Tursunov is back into the top 100 (at No. 92) after making the Marseille semifinals as a qualifier. The 30-year-old has been toughing it out on the Challenger circuit for most of the last year.
Janko Tipsarevic: D. The world No. 9 hasn’t won a match in two tournaments since the Australian Open, where he retired in the fourth round with a foot injury. He lost to Tursunov in his opening round in Marseille.
Sara Errani: B-plus. The toughest part about having a career year that sends you into the top 10 is proving it wasn’t a fluke. Errani has done well. Aside from a first-round loss at the Australian Open, the Italian has now made two finals this season. In Dubai, she pushed Kvitova to three sets thanks in part to Kvitova’s erratic play, but also because she attacked the net with her doubles prowess and gave her opponent a different look.
Caroline Wozniacki: B. In making the Dubai semifinals, where she lost to Kvitova, Wozniacki outlasted boyfriend Rory McIlroy during a tournament week (McIlroy was eliminated in the first round of the World Match Play Championships). Aside from her loss to Ksenia Pervak in her first match of the season, Wozniacki hasn’t had any bad losses this year, though she hasn’t notched any big wins, either. For now, that stability is a positive.
Angelique Kerber: D. It’s hard to know whether Kerber’s winless streak in the Middle East — she lost to Mona Barthel in Doha and Roberta Vinci in Dubai — is a result of a prolonged drop in form or injury. Kerber skipped Fed Cup with a back injury, and it’s possible she came back too early. Still, the results are worrisome.
Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka: C. Last-minute withdrawals are a dagger, particularly to tournaments like Dubai that always get the shaft. But it’s hard to fault a player who’s willing to pay a fine in order to protect her health.
Yulia Putintseva: B. I made a fuss last week over Putintseva’s being granted a wild card into Dubai over Svetlana Kuznetsova, but to her credit the 18-year-old made good. She beat Laura Robson in the first round and challenged Radwanska in a 7-5, 6-3 loss. Most notably, the fiery Kazakh-by-way-of-Russia was remarkably subdued through the week. The jury is still out on whether that makes her more or less entertaining.
Rebecca Marino: A. Marino, 22, stepped away from the game because of a lack of passion, a decision influenced by her bout with depression and Internet abuse. I’ll miss having Marino on tour. She may not have made many headlines, but she was one of the “normals,” intelligent, well read and easy to talk to about all manners of subjects. And her serve. I’ll miss seeing that booming serve.
Jack Sock: A. What a way to get your first win of the season, as Sock upset Milos Raonic 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 in the first round of Memphis. Sock backed up his first victory against a top-15 player by beating James Blake to make his second ATP quarterfinal.
Bob and Mike Bryan: A. The brothers won their third title of the season, defeating Blake and Sock 6-1, 6-2 in the Memphis final.
Bernard Tomic: B. Tomic got his first win since the Australian Open, saving a match point to beat Martin Klizan 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (9) in the Marseille first round, and he had match points against Tsonga in the quarterfinals. Some may focus on an opportunity lost, but I’m digging the fight Tomic has shown throughout the season.
Just look at some of the shots he’s hitting in this highlight reel. Exciting stuff.
American men in Memphis: C-plus. Upside: Sock and Michael Russell made the quarterfinals. Downside: They outlasted the top three active Americans, John Isner, Sam Querrey and Ryan Harrison, all of whom lost before the third round.
American women in Dubai: D. Serena withdrew and Sloane Stephens and Varvara Lepchenko lost in the first round. Christina McHale failed to qualify. So, yeah, not a good week.