Novak Djokovic will (again) go for the career Grand Slam at the French Open. (David Callow/SI)
Novak Djokovic: A. Craig Tiley might as well hand the keys to Melbourne Park to Djokovic, who completed his Australian Open three-peat with equal parts dominance, grit, belief and just plain quality. He survived a fourth-round scare from Stanislas Wawrinka (12-10 in the fifth), embarrassed No. 4 David Ferrer (6-2, 6-2, 6-1) in the semifinals and refused to be moved against Andy Murray (6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2) in the final. Djokovic is the perfect mascot for this tournament that has gone from the red-headed stepchild of the Grand Slams to equal footing, putting pressure on the rest to step up. That sounds a lot like Djokovic, too.
Victoria Azarenka: B+. If Djokovic is the Iron Man, Azarenka may be the female counterpart. Nothing can prepare you for stepping onto a stage where most of a crowd of 15,000 (and millions watching around the globe) hope you fail. Her ability to defend her title under those conditions with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Li Na solidified her as the best competitor on the WTA. Sorry, Maria. Apologies, Serena. But it’s true.
The win came at a price. Time will tell whether the medical timeout criticized around the world defines Azarenka rather than her steely performance in the final. People still remember “The Hand Incident” at the 2003 French Open between Justine Henin and Serena Williams. Henin went on to win that tournament as well, but her reputation for winning at all costs — in the media, among fans and within the locker room — followed her. Azarenka said her takeaway from last week was to be better about explaining herself. That’s fine, but here’s hoping she also learned not to put herself in that position in the first place.