Email
Print
Email
Print

Report Card: Top grades for Serbia, Canada and the Williams sisters

Decrease fontDecrease font
Enlarge fontEnlarge font
Novak Djokovic recovered from an injured ankle to lead Serbia to a win over the U.S. and a trip to the Davis Cup semis. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic recovered from an injured ankle to lead Serbia to a win over the U.S. and a trip to the Davis Cup semis. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

The Report Card hands out grades for the week in tennis. Here is a wrap-up of performances from the Davis Cup, the Family Circle Cup and more. 

Serena Williams: A-minus. By rallying past Jelena Jankovic 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 to defend her Family Circle Cup title, Williams improved to 11-0 since unseating Victoria Azarenka at No. 1. It wasn’t the dominant performance she had here last year, but she was facing much tougher competition: Jankovic, who has always played her tough; her sister Venus; and Mallory Burdette, who forced Serena to elevate her game in the third round. She’ll now have the opportunity to rest before possibly joining the U.S. Fed Cup team in Delray Beach, Fla., against Sweden and then beginning her red clay season in Madrid in May.

Her Charleston win didn’t come without a bit of controversy. After dropping the first set, Serena exchanged words with Jankovic about how fast she was playing between points. The Serb later admitted she lost her focus. Jankovic has quick-served in the past, though I’m not convinced she does it intentionally. But Serena’s complaints undercut her own gripes to the umpire about Azarenka’s holding her up when she served in the Doha final in February. The rule is to play at the reasonable pace of the server, not at the reasonable pace of Serena.

Team Serbia: A. A win over the Americans in the Davis Cup quarterfinals was expected, but the way the Serbians did it was not. After Sam Querrey defeated Victor Troicki on Day 1 to make it 1-1, the conventional wisdom was that if the Serbs were going to win the tie they would have to go through John Isner in a decisive fifth rubber. The assumption, of course, was that Bob and Mike Bryan were a lock to secure a second point for the Americans, while Djokovic would level things at 2-2 by defeating Querrey in Sunday’s first singles match.

Well, Ilija Bozoljac cares not for your assumptions. Paired with Nenad Zimonjic, the 27-year-old Bozoljac, ranked No. 334 in singles and No. 634 in doubles, was the man of the match. He carried the team through the five-set epic before the Serbs were finally able to break to 14-13 in the fifth set. Zimonjic had a big service game to close out the match 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1), 5-7, 4-6, 15-13 and give the Serbs a 2-1 lead. Djokovic got the decisive point the next day, playing through injury to beat Querrey 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-0. All in all, a gutsy performance by the Serbs.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: A. It got a little dicey in the end, as the Russian came close to blowing a 5-0 lead in the third set against Angelique Kerber in the Monterrey final. But Pavlyuchenkova held on for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory to capture her first title since she won Monterrey in 2011. Overall, it’s been a good start to the season for the 23-year-old, who also made the Brisbane final.

Bob and Mike Bryan: D. It’s the curse of success that we just expect the Bryans to come through in any and all Davis Cup ties. But they’ve now lost two in a row in the team competition, against Serbia and Brazil. The Serbs out-aced the brothers 36-12 and hit 30 more winners. As always, the Bryans were classy in defeat, giving all credit to Bozoljac’s beast-mode performance.

Team Canada: A-plus. How’s this as a signal of the changing tennis landscape: The U.S. Davis Cup team barely scrapped out a win over Brazil before losing to Serbia. Meanwhile, our neighbors to the north are into the Davis Cup semifinals for the first time after beating Spain in the first round and then Italy over the weekend, winning the tie 3-1. Milos Raonic continues to be a reliable Davis Cup soldier, beating Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini in singles. Daniel Nestor teamed up with Vasek Pospisil to oulast Fabio Fognini and Daniele Braccaili 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 15-13. Next up, Serbia.

Jelena Jankovic: A-minus. The affable Serb has found her swagger over the last month and a half: She won a small title in Bogota, made the semifinals in Miami and played for the title in Charleston, where she took the first set off Serena before unraveling. After saving two match points with some big serving against Caroline Garcia in the third round — yes, Jankovic was serving big last week — the always-dramatic former No. 1 really found her form. Through it all, she kept the crowd laughing with her on-court antics. She also kept the press room in stitches with her ruminations on glitter hairspray (“You can’t glitter during the day. It doesn’t shine”), her status as a fan favorite (“Am I entertaining? For real?”) and her on-court temper (“I’m like a dragon who spits fire”). It’s great to see her tennis and her personality back in the spotlight where it belongs.

Venus Williams: A. Playing five sets in one day, as she did last Friday, has to be a confidence booster, given her health concerns. Venus downed Varvara Lepchenko in three sets and then turned around to oust Madison Keys in straight sets later in the day after rain forced the top half of the Charleston draw to do double duty. Serena routed Venus 6-1, 6-2 the next day in their first meeting since 2009, but as Serena pointed out, it’s much tougher for Venus to play three matches in two days than anyone else. Still, a Premier semifinal is a solid result for Venus.

Sam Stosur: D. Stosur never retires from matches and rarely gives walkovers. So the calf injury she sustained in Indian Wells that forced her out of that tournament and led to a mid-match retirement against Genie Bouchard (who led 6-1, 2-0) in Charleston is very worrisome.

Caroline Wozniacki: D. I really thought Wozniacki was back on course after making the final in Indian Wells, but she followed that up with a loss to Garbine Muguruza in Miami and another loss to 63rd-ranked Stefanie Voegele in the Charleston quarterfinals. Wozniacki squandered a 3-1 lead in the final set to lose the last five games.

Generation 2020: B-plus. What will Slam quarterfinals look like in 2020? I got a pretty good look last week in Charleston, as the WTA under-20 set showed there’s a lot to be excited about in the future. Off the court, the likes of Taylor Townsend and Laura Robson continue to charm, and on the court the teens are putting up quality results. Keys, 18, continues to be a reliable winner in the early rounds, making her second WTA Premier quarterfinal of the year. Bouchard, 19, reached her first second WTA quarterfinal after scoring her two biggest wins as a pro, against best friend Robson in the second round and Stosur in the third round.  Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig, 19, had Venus on the ropes in the second round, losing 6-2, 5-7, 6-3. And Jessica Pegula, 19, enjoyed a breakout tournament, coming through qualies to snag her first WTA main-draw win, over Muguruza, and then beating No. 34 Mona Barthel 7-6 (4), 6-1.

I asked Keys and Bouchard which of the recent results among their peers gave them belief that they could start beating the pros at such a young age. They both cited Robson’s run to the fourth round at the U.S. Open last year.

“It definitely shows us all that they’re human, these top stars, and we can take them down,” Bouchard said.

Team France: F. With a high-quality team of eighth-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 13th-ranked Gilles Simon and the veteran doubles team of Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra, France still lost to an Argentine team that didn’t have Juan Martin del Potro. While Tsonga came through with two wins, the French couldn’t close it out. Simon went 0-2 in singles, with losses to Juan Monaco, who hasn’t won an ATP match all year, and Carlos Berlocq in the deciding fifth rubber.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands: B-plus. Mattek-Sands looks as fit as ever thanks to a diet change, and her hard work paid off when she saved match point to edge Anastasia Rodionova 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3) in the longest WTA match of the season. She quickly recovered from that three-hour, 42-minute marathon to bully Sloane Stephens off the court just 24 hours later, surrendering only two games. Stephens’ continued slump understandably drew the attention, but this was A-plus aggressive tennis from Mattek-Sands and very fun to watch.

Andrea Petkovic: C-minus. Here’s hoping Petkovic’s withdrawal from Charleston before her third-round match against Wozniacki was 100 percent preventative and not the sign of yet another significant injury. The German’s knee swelled after a long match in Miami and she came into Charleston with a calf injury sustained from overcompensating for her knee.

Sloane Stephens: D. Losing to Mattek-Sands isn’t necessarily a bad result, but winning only two games is a shocker. Stephens says she can’t wait to get to Europe so she can get some space and reset herself. Hope that works.

  • Published On Apr 08, 2013
  • 16 comments
    cleopatra209
    cleopatra209

    serena's come ons are no different than screamapova's come ons!!

    pyro21
    pyro21

    Serena put her hand up one time, and it's equivalent to Azarenka doing it in every service game Serena had? Come on.

    MCB
    MCB

    C'mon. Serena is an astoundingly talented tennis player, but if you don't think that she participates in gamesmanship, you are as biased as you claim Nguyen to be. What do you think her infamous staredowns and "Come ons!!!" are all about? They are intended to intimidate.

    Dancer41
    Dancer41

    I totally agree badgrnation74. The stalling is a ploy that Azarenka started at the Olympics, I believe. There is a clear start to that tactic. Jelena would start serving when Serena was barely at the line. Two very different situations.

    badgernation74
    badgernation74

    I don't think Courtney is biased so much as she knows much less about tennis than you'd expect from a writer on SI.com. Jankovic is notorious for gamesmanship. She was quick serving (which IS against the rules) and SHE broke the flow of the match by snarkily asking the umpire how long she had to wait. Azarenka was stalling on Serena's service games in Doha. That's not what Serena was doing in Charleston. Serena has surely had her meltdowns on court, but she doesn't engage in the kind of petty gamesmanship that many others do.

     

    My REAL beef this week: Giving the Bryan brothers a D for losing 15-13 in the fifth set. Nenad Zimonjic is one of the best doubles players in the world and has had success against the Bryans with mulitple partners. Bozoljac played well, but to claim he carried that team is a joke. Zimonjic played nearly flawless tennis for the first two sets. Horrible analysis of that match from her.

    Dubois100
    Dubois100

    So many, most, so called tennis 'writers' can't seem to get past an innate dislike of Serena. Wonder what irks them so about Serena that enables them to give a free pass to other players like the blatant cheats Justin and Capriati, now Jankovich, and most especially the queen of the banshees, Shriekova, but malign her (Serena) at every opportunity. Wonder if they are even capable of self examination and trying to do better

    AnchorDown11
    AnchorDown11

    Charleston was Bouchard's second WTA quarterfinal. She made her first at the Citi Open last year.

    cleopatra209
    cleopatra209

    serena, always walks around the other side of the court opposite the chairs and water, when it is time to change ends. after the verbal exchange with jank, jank stopped to talk to the umpire and drink from at least 3 different beverage bottles, as, serena WAITED FOR HER! it was serena's turn to serve. hmmmm, did courtney see that? jank certainly wasn't concerned about the reasonable pace of the servers right, was she courtney?? why didn't you call jank out about her excessive water break??  yeah, your comment was biased. if, you are going to tell a story tell both sides of it!!!

    dayo1026
    dayo1026

    Actually Juan Monaco is ranked 18th in the world and has talent.  I agree with the other comment.  How do you give them an F.  I am glad you weren't my prof in college.  Your grading system (although totally subjective) is biased and ridiculous.

    dayo1026
    dayo1026

    Actually, Jankovic did not lose the match because she lost her focus.  She lost the match because Serena raised her level.  You don't lose focus for two complete sets because of an exchange of words during the first game of the second set.  If you would go back and listen to Jankovic's interviews after losses, she always has an excuse.  And for the writer to say that Jankovic lost because she lost focus is just "bull".  Perhaps we should say Serena lost the first set because she didn't focus.  Jankovic got out-played and that is that.  She does engage in gamesmanship.  Serena is not the first, second, or third to accuse her of serving before her opponent is ready.  Serena was right, it must be "reasonable", not when the opponent's head is down.  And as for Azarenka, she does hold up the server, Serena doesn't.  It is obvious that the writer either likes Jankovic or dislikes Serena.  How do you give them the same grade when Jankovic struggled in earlier rounds and Serena only dropped one set before blasting Jankovic off the court in the final two sets.

    rosso_neri
    rosso_neri

    To RosDopwell: Vika was winning that match vs Sloane at Australian Open & she was winning it pretty easily. The MTO didn't turn the match around as such, it merely gave Vika some time to gather herself after she'd failed to serve out the match in the previous game & had match points several times that she didn't take. Not saying it was a great piece of sportsmanship or anything but at least get the facts around it correct. Vika was ahead in that match & seemed to be on her way to a comfortable victory only to choke a bit while trying to serve it out, took the break of her MTOs to gather herself & straight away broke Sloane to win the match. It helped her refocus or treat whatever may have bothered her but it didn't turn the match around.

    RosDopwell
    RosDopwell

    Part#2/. 

    Tennis is  *"Supposed to be - a Gentile Sport". Gamesmanship should not have a place there-in. Remember way back when Monica Seles was asked to - *"Tone down her Grunting", When Djokovic was accused of calling  the trainer at strategic stages to try to upset his opponents momentum./ When Djokovic was asked not  to *"Bounce the Ball" - *SO* many times prior to serving. (???) In all fairness Monica made an attempt to comply but started losing matches, presumably because of it. Djokovic has cut back heavily (He no longer calls the trainer at *Convenient / Strategic times" - he bounces the ball, far less).

    I would remind ALL - as well, of the famous point , at Roland Garros The French Open - when Justine Henin was playing Serena and held up her hand At Roland Garros and would not admit it. The most glaring one being Maria Sharapova's *Ritual* Of turning her back and walking toward the Back-drop to compose herself before coming back to receive. The glaring recent example - IMHO- in the 2013 Australian Open Semi-Final ... when VIKA  Azarenka took a Medical Time out and Bathroom break - when she was losing to Sloane Stephens, which turned the entire match around.

    I shall try to provide  the Youtube Links for some examples. (They are there i have seen them).   

    RosDopwell
    RosDopwell

    Part #1/. Regarding the dispute between Serena vs  Jelena  - on*" Pace of Serve".(Yesterday Sunday April 08 -2013. The Rule (as Taught to me in an Officiating Course - held by an ITF Official)  {{admittedly not very recently}} The updated rule as taught at *That time ... was that :~ 

    **"One must play is at the Pace of the Server  *Within Reason". At the discretion of the chair umpire!!!  It *Specifies* -  that the Server must not *Ambush the *Receiver!" .  All rules that bring in *discretion* are at best *"beg to be questioned, and lead to disputes and argument". Other  *Time Rules* have parameters specified. Example  (i) 30 seconds - when the players change end (ii) 90 Seconds between Sets. It has been my (personal) observation that this has been very *Elastic". It ALSO - keeps being changed! The latest that I heard - 20 seconds to change ends was being suggested. Umpires may be appealed to by a player who feels they are being rushed. In all fairness - rushing one's opponent is gamesmanship. It is trying to get an advantage on your opponent and gain the upper-hand *Even when it is within the rules. It is tying to win not by one's own skill but but by manipulating the rules.

    damien.bourdin
    damien.bourdin

    So after loosing 3-2 against a pretty nasty public in Argentina you give a F to the whole French team?.. Guess what, if you could give them a Z you would do it. I also guess that you didn't see Tsonga playing and I wonder how you would have rated the team's performance if Simon had succeeded to win his final match.. But should I? You like to hate France, and I don't speak about other journalists here, we know it's just you. 

    dayo1026
    dayo1026

     @damien.bourdin

     I totally agree with you.  I also think it is ridiculous for her to buy Jankovic's argument that she lost the match because she lost focus for two entire sets.  Nguyen has always been biased and has her favorites.