Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - First Quarter Report Cards
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First Quarter Report Cards 04/09/2008 - 3:07 PM

Nd2The dust, or whatever comes off a slow American hard court, has settled after three weeks. What, if anything, have we learned about the spring swing? More than any year in the past, I felt like Indian Wells and Key Biscayne together constituted a self-contained section of the year, not unlike the way each of the majors do. It was worth watching for its own sake, but with the clay season upcoming, not necessarily a harbinger of things to come for the pros.

The upside of this system for fans, and the downside for certain players, was that we saw two different sets of people perform well and get rewarded for it. The winners in Indian Wells, Novak Djokovic, Mardy Fish, Ana Ivanovic, couldn’t bounce back mentally in Miami. So we were treated to a different set of four finalists: Rafael Nadal, Nikolay Davydenko, Serena Williams, and Jelena Jankovic. I was all for that variety—how often do you get to see Davydenko show off all that timing and balance and also end the week with a smile?—and wasn’t bothered that it was essentially unfair to, say, Djokovic. I still believe his win Indian Wells was the most significant, since he did it against a full draw of fresh players.

The conclusion of the IW/KB Slam (the Sun Slam?) puts us roughly one-quarter of the way into the 2008 season. Before the shift to clay and a new dawn, CE hands out first quarter report cards to our best students, as well as a couple notable underachievers.

Nikolay Davydenko
The timing on the backhand, the balance on the forehand, the racquet speed on both sides, the ability to cut off the angle when he’s moving wide: The guy is a pure tennis player, and fun to watch when he’s feeling confident. Like his fellow traveler Jankovic, he was also having a status quo year until the draw opened up in Key Biscayne. Credit him for making the most of the opportunity. But is he still too diffident, too deep in his shell, too willing to chase the next paycheck halfway across the globe, to challenge for a major? I’m thinking, unfortunately, yes. A-

Novak Djokovic
He’s been the best around so far, with a major and a Masters, as well as wins over Federer and Nadal, under his belt. I don’t notice anything he’s doing drastically better than he did in the past—he seems to have arrived with a fully formed game. What he has shown is the ability to absorb a defeat, to Federer at the U.S. Open and Nadal at Indian Wells last year, and reverse the result the next time out. Which just means he’s no fluke, and we’ve known for a while now. Djokovic couldn’t keep it together against Kevin Anderson in his opening round in Key Biscayne. Does this mean he’s not cut out to be a dominant champion, à la Federer? Or will he learn from it, just as he’s learned from his losses in the past? I’m leaning toward the latter. A+

Roger Federer
Sire Jacket is the big question mark of the season, and his lack of dominance—no titles through March—is making the men’s race interesting for the time in years. More of a question mark is what effect his belatedly diagnosed mono will have on him going forward. If it’s not still in his body, it may still be lodged in his head. Federer played better in Key Biscayne against Roddick than he did in Indian Wells against Fish. Still, when I turned on the Roddick match, I was struck by how ordinary Federer looked. He was playing at the level of a top pro, but not to his usual level; there was no sense of menace from the baseline, no sense that he could take over a point from anywhere on the court or that his routine baseline game was automatically superior to the American’s. But like I said, that constituted progess after his debacle in the desert. B

Richard Gasquet
With a 9-6 record so far, he’s coasting, and he seems to be miles from figuring out, or wanting to figure out, how to fend off the tour’s bigger, better athletes. C-

Justine Henin
The clay season and the French Open can’t come too soon for Justine. She’s taken serious beatings this year from Sharapova and Serena. Some of that is the power and size of those opponents, and some is the erratic play that comes from trying to match their shot-making. But particularly against Williams, Henin failed to mix up her serve or gain any advantage from it whatsoever. B-

Ana Ivanovic
Her loss to Davenport in KB was depressing—she was outclassed again by a big hitter—but her win in IW was the more significant result. There she showed a killer instinct and match-management skills that had been lacking at times in the past. Like fellow Serb Djokovic, she’s a student of the game, which means the sky is the limit as to how much she can improve. Next step: Learn to counter-punch and keep the rally alive against the bruisers. A

Jelena Jankovic
She seemed content with her semifinal status in Indian Wells, then showed a lot of heart by scratching and clawing her way to owithin shouting distance of the title in Key Biscayne. It’s been a status quo quarter for her, which means she’s been entertaining in both victory and defeat. Who else smiles as her opponent is hitting a great putaway? B

Rafael Nadal
Nadal has the most wins on the men’s tour, but is without a title. He’s shown his usual fight in reaching the semis or better of three big hard-court events (Melbourne, IW, KB), but he’s been steamrolled out of each by lower-ranked players. I suppose this is what we’ll continue to get from Nadal on the hard stuff—his willpower is enough most of the time, but his short backhands and hack slice returns will always leave a big window open for an opponent to find his best form. B+

Andy Roddick
Is this the year of the Roddick? In danger of becoming the Next Vitas Gerulaitis—i.e., a self-deprecating second-fiddle—he’s suddenly knocked off Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer. The latter match was about as well as I’ve seen him play since he blitzed Lleyton Hewitt at the U.S. Open in 2006—Roddick was even acing Federer. But he’s also thrown in a few clunkers and hasn’t solved his basic baseline quandary: Should he just do what he does best and grind? Or does he need to keep trying to venture out of his comfort zone and into the forecourt? Unfortunately, his season is on hold for the moment, with the clay spring arriving. Or is it? Is this the year he goes deep somewhere on clay? I’m thinking quarters in Rome. B+

Maria Sharapova
She’s proven she’s still got Grand Slam game, and has lost just one match as of this writing. But her surge was clearly waning by the time she got to Indian Wells, where some of the old inconsistency crept back into her game. A great start; now we’ll see if she can embrace the expectations this time around. And face up to Venus or Serena. A

Nicole Vaidisova
Is the floor falling out from under her? Vaidisova, a two-time Grand Slam semifinalist and multiple title winner by 17, started the year respectably but lost two ugly first-rounders at Indian Wells and Key Biscayne. I didn't get a chance to see either of those performances, but she's obviously going in the opposite direction from her peer and former rival, Ivanovic—the Serb is now No. 2 in the world; Vaidisova is No. 15. The power was always there, but the form and temperament were questionable. They've caught up with her at the moment. C

Serena Williams
Little sis couldn’t make lightning strike twice Down Under, but she did it for a fifth time, and in convincing fashion, in Key Biscayne. She trounced Henin and survived Kuznetsova and Jankovic. Along the way, she was out of position more often than usual, but she had her swing and contact point dialed in. And that’s always been enough for her against the rest of the WTA. I’ve never seen her as nervous, or at least as affected by her nerves, as she was against Jankovic in the KB final. It was nice to see, actually, and nice to see her narrow her eyes in the final game and overcome them. And her 2-and-0 win over Henin made the women’s season a lot more interesting. A-


 
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Posted by felizjulianidad 04/09/2008 at 03:34 PM

I never saw a point to saying "first!" but... here I am.

Nadal will lose one clay tournament.

Roddick will have a hard time getting 100 points out of it.

Posted by zolarafa 04/09/2008 at 03:42 PM

Second! dos!
Djoko was out in the first round by a qualifier. How does he get A+?

Rafa won against those who constantly beat him on hard courts. He had 4 great matche, Two against Blake, one against Tsonga and one ageinst Berdych. He improved his hard court points compared to last year. HAd he won the Miami title, I bet you would have given him A+. Since he is just one result shorter than your expectation, I am giving him an A

Would be good to have some criteria to evaluate the performance. For example rank of the players they won or lost to, the points compared to last year, etc.


Posted by felizjulianidad 04/09/2008 at 03:48 PM

While Nadal overcame almost all of his HC nemeses, going title-less is not acceptable if he wants to bang up the table and take the number one. The fact that he is fizzling out of later stages in the tournaments when before he used to play even better when the stakes got higher is a worrisome symptom. I would've given an A-, but Steve's grade isn't a disgrace either.

B- for Tsonga for showing flashes of his potential, but also of his mental weakness. I also think he's not the classiest act either.

I agree with Federer's grade. He gained points in his lead over Nadal and has shown brilliant game, but he was never this vulnerable in his entire number one reign.

I think James Perrota is not Nadal's biggest fan.

Posted by tennut 04/09/2008 at 03:51 PM

Federer's reaction time seems to have gotten slower, and it shows against players with fast serves like Roddick and Fish.

This used to be his forte. Now, well something has happened. At the Australian Open, it was his movement which looked almost sluggish (for him, anyways).

Let's see how the clay season plays out.

Posted by Master Ace 04/09/2008 at 03:59 PM

Steve,
I agree with you on the grades except for Djokovic on the ATP, I would give him an A due to his loss to Anderson(KB) and Simon(Marseille- even though he was not 100%).

Posted by Davy 04/09/2008 at 04:03 PM

Unlike all of other top players, Davydenko doesn't get much endorsements; being professional and play as many tournaments as he can is pretty much the only way for him to earn a living.

Posted by zolarafa 04/09/2008 at 04:04 PM

feliz,
***I think James Perrota is not Nadal's biggest fan. ***

you mean Tom Perrota? and the other report card? The Miami blog?yes, he excluded Rafa and even Djoko completely from the grading system!

To me Rafa gets an A and Djoko gets a F for Miami.
For IW, Rafa gets a B+ and Djoko gets an A+.

About Tom Perrota, I don't think ( Or I don't want to think) that he omitted Rafa intentionally. I think that was a very rushed out report.It is not specific at all. As if Tom wrote it 4 in the morning the day it was due. It is a so-so recap of the tournament, but could be written much better.

Posted by rudy3 04/09/2008 at 04:05 PM

geez, you didn't give Rafa credit for figuring out Tsonga, Blake & Berdych. But you give Joker credit for coming back. Tough grading.


Posted by ptenisnet 04/09/2008 at 04:14 PM

OK Steve
I think you are being kind of generous with Kolya who wasn't really having a stellar until Miami. But I take an exception to your downgrading him (if that's what you are doing) to an A- based on what you think he might do for the rest of the year.
Why does Djoko get an A+ after his dismal effort against Kevin Anderson?
Similar question for Roddick.

Posted by Rosangel 04/09/2008 at 04:20 PM

No mention of Djoker exiting early in Marseille, or his retirement in DC?

Posted by zolarafa 04/09/2008 at 04:24 PM

Rosia,
or Djoker's first round exit by a qualifer in Miami? where he was the defending champion?

For some reason he has been given "untouchable" status in tennis.com. Or say "protected ranking ". Whatever he does, his A+ remains intact!
Tom Perrota did not mention him either.!

Posted by Rosangel 04/09/2008 at 04:28 PM

Or, to expand ptenisnet's point, Kolya was on the bonfire of the seeds in Rotterdam, losing in his second match (admittedly to Llodra, the eventual champion, but his performance there was pretty lacklustre), floundered against Fish in straight sets in Indian Wells, and reached only R16 at the Australian Open. He reached semis in Doha and Dubai, falling to Murray and Lopez respectively.

He did win he third big title of the year, though.

Posted by D-Wiz 04/09/2008 at 04:28 PM

I'd give some A grade to all players who won the AO, IW or KB events. If a player didn't win one of those, no A for them, no exceptions.

I think the + for Djoko is pretty generous despite the fact he won 2 out of 3 of the big events this year. Reasons already mentioned absolutely preclude him from the A+ realm, IMO.

Also too generous to Roddick. He's turned in some really impressive work this quarter, but didn't win one of the biggest 3 events. I can't go higher than B+ there.

No quibbles with the rest. :)

Posted by ptenisnet 04/09/2008 at 04:34 PM

Exactly.
I might argue that Kolya should get a B (because of Miami) that's upgraded from a C (because of the rest of his first quarter).

And wrt him traipsing the world collecting paychecks, he's played 2 less tournaments, up to miami, than he has in the past 3 years.

Posted by crazyone 04/09/2008 at 04:35 PM

Also, Roddick had that loss to Kohlschreiber--it's the kind of match an A grade player should have been able to pull out, especially one with a serve like Andy's. It may have been the catalyst for him turning things around, but still--the AO was by far the biggest event of this quarter.

Posted by Master Ace 04/09/2008 at 04:58 PM

WTA:
Henin(B-):Even though she won 2 titles(Syndey and Antwerp), I agree with this grade due to 2 blowouts against Maria and Serena AND her title in Antwerp was against C level talent at best.
Ivanovic(A): She was a finalist at the AO and won at IW. She lost to a resurgent Dementieva at Dubai and had to w/d due to an ankle injury before her match with Radwanska. Even though we do not know how Ana would have fared at Doha if not for w/d, I agree with this grade.
Jankovic(B): Finalist at KB along with finishing in the QF and SF at other tournaments. Only bad tourney for her was at Bangalore, where I thought she should have skipped. She has battled injuries and colds this year and is now looking for a new coach. Therefore, again I agree with this grade.


Maria and Serena grade opinion from me in my next post.

Posted by Nick 04/09/2008 at 05:02 PM

I thought the Djokovic grade was too high, simply because of what you wrote about Federer & Nadal. You say Djokovic is the best around by citing wins over Federer and Nadal this quarter. But you then write that Federer has playing this season below his normal standard ("ordinary"), and Nadal's hard court game is still offering "hack slice returns" and "short backhands". So I ask: then what's so remarkable about Djokovic having beaten them? I dont' get it.

And true about Djokovic not playing too substantively different today than he was doing before, which is what can spell trouble for him like what we saw in Miami & Marseille. And Shanghai. He's lost to ten different guys on hard courts since he won in Canada last summer. So I suppose we could assume any of them could take him down again. He's proven one thing for sure: could win any tournament he enters as easily as he could lose early. A-plus for him?? Hmm..puzzling.

Posted by SwissMaestro 04/09/2008 at 05:05 PM

Didn't Roddick make the SF's in Rome once?

Posted by zolarafa 04/09/2008 at 05:06 PM

where did Tom Perrota's Miami report go?

Posted by Rosangel 04/09/2008 at 05:13 PM

zola: here
http://tennisworld.typepad.com/string_theory/2008/04/goodbye-miami.html

Posted by 1963USCtennis 04/09/2008 at 05:13 PM

OMG!

the gods of the partial credit are still not favoring Rafael Nadal.

This is despite the fact that he is the most improved top level pro on the one surface where he performs "least" (72% all time win).
Compare RNs results and improvements on HC to say Roddick or Blake on clay courts over the years and you will get the picture.

I am sure the lopsided loss in Miami "seemed" worse than it actually is.

If anything I would give an A- despite the finals egg.
In IW he went up against an up and comming Tsonga full of confidence and he slayed that dragon. And then in what is in my opinion J Blake's best match (that I have ever seen) he was able to put that deamon to rest... and then he fully turned the tables around in Miami.

His final in Miami WAS a doozer. But why can't anyone give those who play Nadal any credit? Didn't Davydenko play the best tournament of his life?

So: you lose in a final to the world's #4 in HIS GREATEST PERFORMANCE EVER and you get a B+

Ok.

Rafa: next time light more candles for the gods of the partial credit.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/09/2008 at 05:14 PM

Totally and completely disagree. How does Justine deserve a lesser grade then Janky who has won nothing and the Queen has won two titles this year. Sorry, but ask any player if they would rather have two titles or get close in 2? What do you get for getting close? Nothing. Patrick, I'm surprise you agree. But this is typical of how the media never gives Justine the credit she deserves. Can't say I'm surprise. Go Justine, world's #1!

Posted by Master Ace 04/09/2008 at 05:16 PM

WTA (continued):

Sharapova (A): She is 18-1 winning AO and Doha and lost in the SF to Kuznetsova at IW and based on results was the best player in the first 3 months of 2008. Normally, this grade would be an A+ but not playing Miami and Dubai have made me agree with the grade given.
S Williams (A-): She is 14-1 winning Key Biscayne and Bangalore losing only to Jelena in the QF at AO. Even though she did not play her tournaments as scheduled in February, I would raise her grade to an A.

Posted by Sher 04/09/2008 at 05:17 PM

I didn't even read the rest yet, but c'mon:

"But is he still too diffident, too deep in his shell, too willing to chase the next paycheck halfway across the globe, to challenge for a major? I’m thinking, unfortunately, yes."

Are you marking him for his accomplishment or for what you think he may or may not be capable of? That way Roger Federer gets A+ every time even if he loses in the first round, because, well, he's capable of challenging for the majors?

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/09/2008 at 05:19 PM

Also, how does Federer who has won nothing this year get a better grade then Justine? Go figure!

Posted by linex 04/09/2008 at 05:22 PM

I agree mostly with all the grades and comments. But perhaps Kolya starts to believe in himself (he said this big wins gave him confidence for the upcoming season) and in the possibility of competing for a Slam and beating Roger in the semi or quarter final. I think this could happen because everything in Kolya´s carreer has been slow. For example in Roland Garros 2004 he was trashed by Coria and in Roland Garros 2005 he just beat him in 4 sets, he had lost a lot of matches in a row to Nalbandian until he finally beat him in Roland Garros 2007. The same with Nadal, he was close to beating him in Rome but he lacked the necessary confidence. Now he defeated him. So the next step is beating Roger and that could mean being in a final in a Slam ...And we already know he has good records in finals.

Posted by Sher 04/09/2008 at 05:23 PM

I see the rest of your grading is similarly subjective......probably my mistake is approaching these as something other than blog posts.

Posted by zolarafa 04/09/2008 at 05:24 PM

thanks Rosia
and I found out that I was spelling his last name wrong all the time. Sorry Tom!

Posted by Master Ace 04/09/2008 at 05:25 PM

Samantha Elin,
Knew you would disagree with me on this one. However, with the way Justine started out winning Sydney beating Ana and Svetlana along the way winning the title to extend her winning streak, I expected her results to be better. Also, what did not help her grade was her loss to Fran ,even though it was a tight match, did not help.
At least the WTA clay season has started and we have had a few surprises already with Hantuchova and Schnyder losing today.

Posted by linex 04/09/2008 at 05:26 PM

Samantha,

Perhaps you could take a look at the WTA race and look for Justine´s position and afterwards look for Roger´s position. Who is higher in the race? I do not know the answer now, but that is an objective assesment of what each achieved so far.

Posted by D-Wiz 04/09/2008 at 05:29 PM

Just a thought. Is there such a thing as partial credit for a final exam in school? If you ace all the quizzes, but bomb on the final, your grade usually comes down. I'm juss sayin'. :)

As for Davydenko, the final of KB being his greatest performance ever is debatable. It's a subjective thing, yanno? Serving aside, I've seen him play that well before. I think I've even seen him play better and lose. That, of course, is JMO. :)

Posted by Master Ace 04/09/2008 at 05:35 PM

Disappointments:
Agnes Szavay
Nicole Vaidisova
Nadia Petrova (3-7 with 6 1st match losses)
Tamira Paszek
Amelie Mauresmo
Maria Kirilenko

Surprises(in no order):
Sabine Lisicki - beat Safina(AO)/Davenport(Fed Cup)/Chakvetadze(KB)
Flavia Pennetta - back to dominating the Latin clay swing and having good results in other tournamens
Vera Zvonareva (20-6 finalist in Doha and semifinalist KB)
Caroline Wozniacki

Posted this in a previous thread but since grades are given out, I wanted to repeat that in this thread.

Posted by steve 04/09/2008 at 05:35 PM

i mentioned up top that i considered the djokovic loss to anderson a product in part of the schedule, and weighed indian wells as the more important result. his kb loss wasn't meaningless, but it's overshadowed by his positives for the year. and with a slam and a masters, i didn't consider a loss in marseille worth mentioning or taking seriously.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/09/2008 at 05:38 PM

Totally unfair Steve in regards to the Queen. Typical of the media.

Posted by zolarafa 04/09/2008 at 05:43 PM

Steve,
I think the problem is that you have different measring sticks for different players. Why is a loss to a qualifier for a defending champion, losing 500 ranking points, is not worth mentioning?

By the same measure Rafa's loss in semi-finals to an up and coming Tsonga and Federer's loss in Dubai to a word class Murray should not affect your grading.

Posted by randomlurker 04/09/2008 at 05:53 PM

i think order will be restored on clay. no "hot" runs or "in the zone" moments by those who fly under the radar because:
1) Roddick's run stops here.
2) i think upsets will be rarer on clay. until proven otherwise, only roger stops nadal on clay.
3)speaking of roger, it's much more difficult to pull of a mardy fish feat on clay than on faster surfaces. that iw match was over in a blink of an eye. boom. ace. boom forehand winner. boom backhand blast. that was the tone of that match...clay doesn't allow that.
4) djoko should be rested and motivated.

i'd expect the top 3 to make the semis 99% of the time w/ the best player winning.

agree/disagree?

Posted by zolarafa 04/09/2008 at 05:57 PM

Another example:

What has Gasquet done that Tsonga has not? Why do we need to grade GAsquet but not TSonga?

Tsonga won Murray and NAdal and reached the final of a GS. He has not even been menttioned here.
Which one is more important? reaching a GS final ( 700 points) or winning a MS ( 500 points) ? Then Davydenko gets an A and Tsonga is not even there.

not that I am a fan of Tsonga ( on the contrary!).

Posted by rudy3 04/09/2008 at 06:02 PM

But Steve,

Djoko walked off the court in Davis Cup, thus eliminating his country from the competition.
That right there is enough to loose the +

Posted by richie 04/09/2008 at 06:16 PM

Steve - The beauty of the year so far is that both the men's and women's divisions have turned out to be unpredictable and inconsistent. Who would have thought that both Nadal and Federer would not have titles at the present time.And who would have thought that Henin would have played so listlessly against Serena at KB. Even the clay court season will not give us all the answers - perhaps after Wimbledon, things will be somewhat clearer. It looks like an interesting year.

Posted by Beckham 04/09/2008 at 06:28 PM

I'll take progress after the debacle in the desert...he's still not explosive to his FH and is still a tad slow...but the good news is that there isn't any excessive sweating anymore...

Posted by Syd 04/09/2008 at 06:48 PM

So Steve—Tell us your methodology? What are the criteria for these grades? Is there a system based on data? Like a point system?

Why does Henin get a B- and Fed get a B when their results, roughly speaking, have been about the same?


Posted by Eve A. 04/09/2008 at 06:58 PM

Concerning Henin and Federer, I think Samantha has a point. Both are ranked sixth in their respective races, and here is how their years break down:
Federer - 11-4 record, 0 titles, $527,010 prize money. Losses to Djokovic, Murray, Fish and Roddick. Two semifinals, one quarterfinal, one first-round loss.
Henin - 15-3 record, two titles, $445,185 prize money. Losses to Sharapova, Schiavone and Serena Williams, all in quarterfinals.

Both of them have one head-scratching loss on their records, but for the most part, their losses are to credible opposition. And unless you count prize money as be-all-end-all, then it is, needless to say, odd to see Steve give Henin a lower grade than Federer, considering their actual results.
As for the rest of the field, I will be curious to see how many players are playing to peak later this year, with Roland Garros, Wimbledon, the Olympics and the U.S. Open all in such a tight time span. Of course, the younger players have gotten off to a rousing start to the season, but Federer, Henin, Serena, and other older players have been through this Olympic-year cycle before. Will the players who are making the headlines now still be around in July, August and September? Thoughts, anyone?

Posted by crazyone 04/09/2008 at 07:14 PM

I'm curious, Steve, if Djokovic's performance this year gets an A+ (I'd grade him as a solid A), what would you grade 2006 Federer as?

As for the schedule being responsible for Djokovic's defeat in the first round, he played the same number of matches at IW last year, and still went on to win Miami, in the process rolling over the guy who had defeated him just a few weeks earlier in IW...for a unseasoned 19 year old player, that's an A+ performance.

Posted by Eve A. 04/09/2008 at 07:19 PM

Also, Master Ace mentioned Sabine Lisicki, but I thought I would mention a couple other players (18 or younger) who seem to have made major strides this year and could be top 100 before too long:
Evgeniya Rodina - current ranking 102
Petra Kvitova - current ranking 118
Yanina Wickmayer - current ranking 138
Another who had an impressive result at Miami is Michelle Larcher de Brito (236 with a bullet). I don't know the men's players as well, but Kei Nishikori seems to be a name to keep an eye on. Any others?

Posted by sheshe 04/09/2008 at 07:29 PM

Steve, I find it very frustrating reading your reviews. They loadly reveal your bias and favorites on both the atp and wta. I was at the Sony Ericsson and watched Ivonivic's match against Davenport and was hugely disappointed. I was like "This is the girl who won IW's???" She looked intimidated and very much an not "together". I really was almost embarressed for her. You OBVIOUSLY LOVE the SERBS. It is so transparant. Djockavic (however you spell his sorry name) have you guys whipped. And please stop the Federer underachieving crap. He gets to the semi's in AO and semi's in IW and quarters in Miami and you guys think Novak is doing better????? Like Pete Bodo said Roddick was due. Federer played really well...Roddick was Possessed to win. It happens. I hope Federer dominates in the next couple months just to frustrate you guys. You so obviously have a crush on Ana too. Please stop being so transparent in your observations. I seriously do not understand why you would not have the ut most respect for Federer and what he has achieved and brought to tennis and be more understanding with maybe some positive remarks as to "He is still very much in the picture and he can not ALWAYS be winning". Like Nadal said, It is almost impossible to play at 100% all the time!!! The bar he raised for himself is hurting him because of sports writers like yourself! Are you jealous of him? That is what I have been feeling lately. One more thing...Novak's mother was quoted as saying "We came to this tournament to win" in AO..There was a whole lot of momentum behind Novak and his family, and it really annoying to alot of us following the Slam. How come none of you have commented on the negative responses alot of fans have made toward "that family". Even my tennis pro at our club said..."THAT FAMILY"... Please for ONCE give Federer a Break....

Posted by FoT 04/09/2008 at 07:36 PM

I just wish tennis would go back to the way it was in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007... (with Roger practically winning everything)! That was my kind of tennis! lol! I don't like this year with no one knowing who will win from one week to the next. Tennis needs stability and the stability I want is Roger's dominance again! (yes, I'm selfish!)...lol!

Posted by mem 04/09/2008 at 07:42 PM

I'm sure Rafa Nadal wouldn't lose any sleep over your assessment. However, If his success depended upon your report card, he would be condemned to a life of selling cheese. It is clear that you are pro-Djokovic. Djokovic an A+, how comical!

Posted by Kenneth 04/09/2008 at 07:50 PM

Steve, great that you gave us something to chew on...thought for a moment you had taken off.

But...at best, Davy deserves a B+ for finally owning his talent, and sorry, but for me Federer gets a C, maybe a C+. No more talk please, about the mono; he showed up to play and it shouldn't be a built-in factor (for anyone, not just him) whenever he loses. Every other score I agreed with. I mean, Djokovic did win two of the three biggest tournaments this year...if that isn't an A+, not sure what qualifies.

*Please, please, pretty please...we've lived with Federer's greatness for years now. I don't think anyone can say anything about his (pick an adjective) that hasn't been said before. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he created a monster, blah, blah, blah, we don't have to sing Federer's praises every single time. We know that he's (adjective), and that he's in a (noun), so until he retires he is the (adjective) ever.

*small rant

Posted by sheshe 04/09/2008 at 08:25 PM

Steve, I find it very frustrating reading your reviews. They loadly reveal your bias and favorites on both the atp and wta. I was at the Sony Ericsson and watched Ivonivic's match against Davenport and was hugely disappointed. I was like "This is the girl who won IW's???" She looked intimidated and very much an not "together". I really was almost embarressed for her. You OBVIOUSLY LOVE the SERBS. It is so transparant. Djockavic (however you spell his sorry name) have you guys whipped. And please stop the Federer underachieving crap. He gets to the semi's in AO and semi's in IW and quarters in Miami and you guys think Novak is doing better????? Like Pete Bodo said Roddick was due. Federer played really well...Roddick was Possessed to win. It happens. I hope Federer dominates in the next couple months just to frustrate you guys. You so obviously have a crush on Ana too. Please stop being so transparent in your observations. I seriously do not understand why you would not have the ut most respect for Federer and what he has achieved and brought to tennis and be more understanding with maybe some positive remarks as to "He is still very much in the picture and he can not ALWAYS be winning". Like Nadal said, It is almost impossible to play at 100% all the time!!! The bar he raised for himself is hurting him because of sports writers like yourself! Are you jealous of him? That is what I have been feeling lately. One more thing...Novak's mother was quoted as saying "We came to this tournament to win" in AO..There was a whole lot of momentum behind Novak and his family, and it really annoying to alot of us following the Slam. How come none of you have commented on the negative responses alot of fans have made toward "that family". Even my tennis pro at our club said..."THAT FAMILY"... Please for ONCE give Federer a Break....

Posted by sheshe 04/09/2008 at 08:26 PM

Steve, I find it very frustrating reading your reviews. They loadly reveal your bias and favorites on both the atp and wta. I was at the Sony Ericsson and watched Ivonivic's match against Davenport and was hugely disappointed. I was like "This is the girl who won IW's???" She looked intimidated and very much an not "together". I really was almost embarressed for her. You OBVIOUSLY LOVE the SERBS. It is so transparant. Djockavic (however you spell his sorry name) have you guys whipped. And please stop the Federer underachieving crap. He gets to the semi's in AO and semi's in IW and quarters in Miami and you guys think Novak is doing better????? Like Pete Bodo said Roddick was due. Federer played really well...Roddick was Possessed to win. It happens. I hope Federer dominates in the next couple months just to frustrate you guys. You so obviously have a crush on Ana too. Please stop being so transparent in your observations. I seriously do not understand why you would not have the ut most respect for Federer and what he has achieved and brought to tennis and be more understanding with maybe some positive remarks as to "He is still very much in the picture and he can not ALWAYS be winning". Like Nadal said, It is almost impossible to play at 100% all the time!!! The bar he raised for himself is hurting him because of sports writers like yourself! Are you jealous of him? That is what I have been feeling lately. One more thing...Novak's mother was quoted as saying "We came to this tournament to win" in AO..There was a whole lot of momentum behind Novak and his family, and it really annoying to alot of us following the Slam. How come none of you have commented on the negative responses alot of fans have made toward "that family". Even my tennis pro at our club said..."THAT FAMILY"... Please for ONCE give Federer a Break....

Posted by Melissa 04/09/2008 at 08:42 PM

I can't believe an A is given to the Shrieker. Sure, she won the AO. Than she loses at IW and suddenly discovers a shoulder injury? Pluzzzzz! I think AO will be the only Slam she wins this year. Venus wil probably try her best at Wimby (I love Venus but I'd like to see her play her best tennis on courts other than grass). As Serena, hopefully, she'll give Juju a run for her money a the FO. And I'm reserving judgment on the Serbians. Until Ivanovic gets hold of her nerves and JJ gets a serve, I'm don't have the feeling that they're big Slam serious contenders.

Posted by Master Ace 04/09/2008 at 08:51 PM

Eve A,
The 3 ladies mentioned in your post at 7:19 PM do have the potential of climbing the rankings. Kvitova has a win over Venus as her career win to date. Wickmeyer gave Belgium a chance to beat Ukraine in their Fed Cup tie in Feb. Rodina has had some good wins also. Larcher de Brito has the potential to be a Top 10 player in the next 5-6 years. She is only 15 at the moment but won 3 matches in the past 2 years at Key Biscayne.

Syd,
I just happen to agree with Steve on his grades for Henin and Federer. I expected a lot from Justine after she beat Ana and Svetlana to win Sydney and maintain her winning streak. Surprised that in 2 of her losses this year she received a bagel in each. Also, the depth of the ATP is better than the WTA but the depth of the WTA is improving so in about 2 years it will be reversed. On Federer, he won 3 Slams but he was a few points from maybe losing them to Nadal at Wimbledon and Djokovic at the USO. Also, he lost more matches in 2007 than he did in 2005 and 2006 together.

Posted by Erin 04/09/2008 at 08:58 PM

IMO compared to her level of play from 2003-2007, I think I would have to give Justine a 'C' grade or worse, even with the two titles, she's really not been sharp this year at all mentally or gamewise, I'm hoping it's just a mental hangover from all the big events of last year, personal and professional, it's odd how the trajectory of Justine's career is so similar to Roger's,they both really came to the forefront about the same time, and both are having one of their worst slump periods together at the same time

Posted by Laine 04/09/2008 at 09:39 PM

How did Roger get a B and Roddick get a B plus? How did Novak get a A plus and Nadal get a B plus. That's just messed up.

Posted by Sher 04/09/2008 at 09:39 PM

hilarious to read about everyone looooving serbs when a few weeks ago everyone was haaaating serbs. things change.

Posted by crazyone 04/09/2008 at 09:39 PM

Master Ace, when was Federer a few points away from losing to Djokovic at the USO?????

He was a few points away from losing the first set, and having won the first set, he was a point away from losing the second. At any point in time, he was in danger of losing a single set. He's done that in the past, to Baghdatis, Roddick, Agassi, Nadal. It's not a big deal. Gonzales had set points on him at the AO too, but no one brings that up as "Federer almost lost at the AO".

Posted by Christopher 04/09/2008 at 09:40 PM

Steve-- Is there any top player that you and Pete have not be accused of "obviously favoring" by fans of other top players? (Other than, in Pete's case Kim Clijsters!)

Posted by Master Ace 04/09/2008 at 09:42 PM

Crazyone,
On Federer/Djokovic, if Novak gets one of those missed set points, he may have won the match. That is what I meant he was a few points in the USO.

Posted by Master Ace 04/09/2008 at 09:45 PM

"Henin(B-):Even though she won 2 titles(Syndey and Antwerp), I agree with this grade due to 2 blowouts against Maria and Serena AND her title in Antwerp was against C level talent at best."

This is what I said about Henin at 4:58 PM today but since then I honestly forgot that her knees were hurting her during the AO; therefore, I will disagree with Steve and give her a solid B.

Posted by Master Ace 04/09/2008 at 09:47 PM

Samantha Elin,
Just read that Justine withdrew from Charleston today but have not seen anything official yet.

Posted by Syd 04/09/2008 at 09:53 PM

But Master Ace, Djoko was a "few points" from losing Montreal 4 in the tiebreak to be exact. Safin was one point from losing Australia, Roger had the match on his racket. I'm not sure that we can go down that road. Too complicated!

Posted by Dee 04/09/2008 at 09:59 PM

Davydenko - Agree. he is a player who goes about his business without any fanfare. Not as tall as the other players but has done well enough to stay in the top 10 for ... how many years now?

Federer - with mono as reason for not playing at his best, my thoughts are he deserves an A- for the effort he has put in so far.

Roddick - with 2 titles in the bag, yes B+ or A- at least.

Nadal - got disappointed with Nadal. But B- is too low a grade for his efforts.


Djokovic - A+ for the start of the quarter going to B for losing in the first round towards the end of the quarter. So my AVERAGE for the djoker would be A or A-. Definitely not an A+ !!

Gasquet - why is he in the list, at all? :-|. I think you could have included Nalbandian, Ferrer ...

... where is James Blake?? No comment on a fellow American's efforts?

Henin - I agree with Samantha. The grade seems to be too low. I would give her an A- considering the two titles.

S Williams - great effort for the new "Serena". I am a Henin fan but appreciate other players' efforts as well. I like it that Serena has trimmed down/worked out or whatever it is she did to get her body in fantastic shape for KB. Sloppy finals, though.

Jankovic - always liked her and the effort she puts in to stay alive in a match. If she plays with the big girls she HAS TO improve her serve. Geez ... the matches she could have won with this weapon.

Ivanovic - A's okay

Sharapova - good start to the year. Interested to see how she fares in the clay tournaments.

Davenport - so far, great going, Mama Lindsay!

Vaidisova - agree. Chakvetadze - no sentence on her performance so far, Steve?

Kuznetsova - the au naturel player to Steve. In the finals twice, not bad but she could have won Dubai except that Elena Dementieva was too good.

Dementieva - semis in Gaz de France, winner in Dubai, did not play in IW but reached the quarters in KB, plus up the rankings at No. 8 again. How about an A-, Steve?

Posted by Kath 04/09/2008 at 09:59 PM

So the "draw opened up" for Davydenko....? give the guy a bit more credit: he beat Roddick for the first time playing terrific tennis and Nadal for the first time playing terrific tennis.
Djokovic gets an A+ for beating the likes of Nadal but Davydenko has the "draw opened up".

And if Djoko could handle the IW/Miami schedule last year, why does he get a free pass for losing first round to a qualifier?

Posted by Master Ace 04/09/2008 at 10:11 PM

Syd,
Agree on that complicated road because that discussion can last days, months, years, lifetime....

Posted by Dee 04/09/2008 at 10:12 PM

From Master Ace -

"Samantha Elin,
Just read that Justine withdrew from Charleston today but have not seen anything official yet."

OH NO ... what's up is it her knees?

Posted by Master Ace 04/09/2008 at 10:16 PM

Dee,
Steve gave Rafa an B+.

At first, I agreed with Steve on Henin's grade for all the reasons in my post but forgot one very important detail and that was her knees where I agree to give her a B. I expected a lot from her when she won Sydney.

Posted by Master Ace 04/09/2008 at 10:17 PM

Dee,
Let's hope not but I am afraid that it is. hopefully, we should know the official word in a day or two from her.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/09/2008 at 10:21 PM

Thanks Patrick, I didn't know that. Get well to the Queen and I would agree that she deserves a B, the same as Roger and Jelena who have won nothing compared to her 2 titles.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/09/2008 at 10:24 PM

Dee, I don't know. I've been on the Swedish and Danish website and found nothing there. I knew that she was having a problem, but I didn't think it was this severe.

Posted by zolarafa 04/09/2008 at 10:39 PM

Christopher
***Steve-- Is there any top player that you and Pete have not be accused of "obviously favoring" by fans of other top players? (Other than, in Pete's case Kim Clijsters!)***

I think while some fans are doing this, many others want to know the criteria. This looks like a random grading.

Posted by zolarafa 04/09/2008 at 10:50 PM

Master Ace,
Are you Patrick the Wizard?

Posted by TennisChica 04/09/2008 at 11:01 PM

Steve,

Was the point of this post to drive people away from reading your blogs?

Right now, I am so thankful that you were not 1. one of my teachers and 2. not my employer.

Your rationale is so lopsided, irrational, half axx'd and subjective that I cannot see straight right. I am actually offended.

Posted by Andrew Miller 04/09/2008 at 11:03 PM

Me things there is some grade inflation here Master Tignor...wish I had you as a professor in my University days!!!

Not sure how Federer gets a "B" with no titles, a major semifinal, a IW semifinal, a hometown Dubai 1st round, and a Miami quarterfinal. For Federer, of course this is a "D" performance and a B-/C+ showing overall for an ultra contender not named Federer, so B strikes me as a little two kind, despite the fact that at the same time last year Federer had been dealt a pair of masters defeats by Guillermo "comeback kid" Canas, who is now Guillermo "who?" Canas.

I also think some grade inflation for Henin - she is playing C ball now and got plastered by Serena, who is capable of plastering but again, it doesnt make much sense given who were talking about here - Justine "Closest We Got on the WTA to Federer, from a country not all too much bigger than TMF's true hometown" Henin.

I would say a host of people get B+'s - amongst them Tsonga, Fish, etc. There are also some F's to award out: Tommy Robredo. Our buddy James Blake should get a B- or so. Masters finalist David Ferrer would check in with a C- or D+ for the year he's sported. Nalbandian I think get a C-/D (C- results, D substance). Hantuchova gets something like a B- or so, which is great for her, but still not great. Kuzzie gets a B or B+; Anna Chakvetasze a B.

Anyhows...still feel there is a "spirit of generosity" from Master Tignor, but I think some of these grades are a bit high. Federer is certainly in trouble, and I think he is aware of it.

Posted by Dee 04/09/2008 at 11:19 PM

Master Ace-
Thanks for the correction to Rafa's grade. I am doing quick reads on the posts while at work... I wonder how many of us do that?

On Henin, Tsonga, all the rest with injuries, I hope they get better. Tsonga/Roddick matchup in the Davis Cup could have been interesting!

Posted by colin 04/09/2008 at 11:26 PM

eh i agree with melissa on the wta stuff.. like the blog grades for the most part. Federer isnt seeing the ball and gliding like he was, could be mental tiredness from sickness or lack of interest from winning so much in the past.. abilities come and go remember how jonnymac went from winning everything to not winning a major again! its tennis. (not saying it will happen for ya fedfanboys, but always a possibility.) I give fed a C+. Mono sux - hes doing good for only having it 3 months ago. I would of given nadal an A tho. He had his best results ever at the AO, came back and beat the dood who beat him AO, at IW and made the Finals of Miami losing to a Asskickin mode Davy. Nadals hungry for a win,love dat dood! inspires me to run after everything even more so when playing tennis. nadal should use his volley skills more on hCs and return like agassi. im sure hes gonna bring it on clay again tho(like he seems to always do) So far ive been thinking Roddick has to be one of the most improved top 10 players this year, even tho he hasnt won any of the 3 majors yet hes really playing better' maybe hes found some goodvibes from finding a future wife!? i dont see em doing well on clay tho, then again he might prove us all wrong. he won dubai, id give em an A. djoker is playing picky' mentally he can win anything if hes focused but losing to a qf@ miami?!? comeon man, guess he got homesick and tired of america = A.

Posted by topboy 04/09/2008 at 11:53 PM

@ Sheshe - LOL ... maybe you should learn how to spell Djokovic before your bias against Serbs comes out! Oh wait, too late.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Steve gives Djokovic A+ and TW goes nuts inciting bias.
Let's see: out of three major tournaments, he won 2 (including the grand slam and emphatic wins over #1 and #2 in those tournaments) - I think that right there, not to mention best record on the ATP (not counting the Ukranian player who won Zagreb and has 5-0 record, sorry forgot his name), gets him the highest grade. Maybe the '+' could have been omitted (due to his out-of-the-blue loss at Miami), but then Steve would have to lower everyone else's grade by a notch.

I don't understand why are Rafa fans complaining? And some want him graded the best of the 1st quarter. That's laughable. Granted he had good results (best 1st quarter for him ever), but he also had 6 losses so far and 4 that I remember were blowouts (Youzhny, Tsonga, Djokovic, Davydenko), didn't defend his title at IW and didn't pick up a title anywhere else. So while he was consistent, he wasn't outstanding - no A for Nadal!

Davydenko's & Federer's grades are a bit inflated IMHO. Federer has severely underperformed (worst start to a season since 2000), but he had mono, so B- would be OK. Davydenko should not have a higher grade than Nadal just because he won Miami as he has done nothing else. At best, they should both be at B+.

Roddick's grade is decent as he does have 2 tournaments and wins over the top 3 so far.


Gasquet - no comment :)

I agree with women's grades. It's obvious that Masha, Ana and Serena are at the top of the class the rest so far, and they do deserves A's (or A-'s).

Surprise there's no comment on Venus or Kuz. Venus has also underperformed so far, but apparently she might not be at her best either (health-wise).

Posted by topboy 04/10/2008 at 12:23 AM

oh wait, sheshe... i completely missed your comment 'about that family' .... ahahah.... i am even more amused now!

why don't we petition to steve to inlcude players' entourage when assessing the player's performance (on the court!!!). how much should we weigh it in tennis terms, as much as winning a masters or is that too low, maybe a grand slam? :D

Posted by Fran 04/10/2008 at 12:46 AM

OK, Ive seen enough rants on here to have one of my own.How come when Mario Ancic has mono he's given every free pass,media-wise,in the book.Everyone making excuses for him,not expecting much of him etc etc.When he starts to play a little better,how well he's doing now despite his illness.
I'm giving Roger Federer an A for getting to the Aussie semi-final with food poisoning and mono !!!For not making excuses at the time ,for staying on court,without Djokovic type time outs and without saying I feel like **** and that's why I lost.
I mean come on, this is a guy who has never left the court sick or injured but out of respect for his opponent always plays to the end of a match.I'm so unimpressed by the media disrespecting Roger Federer.Would they talk these ways about Tiger Woods;no.
I'm glad the media think Djokovic is wonderful,but they need to keep in mind that for fans in general he has a long way to go to gain respect.A B+ for his game and a D+ for his 'personality'
As for Nadal;I give him an A for effort too.Cos he just keeps trying to improve his game and compared to Djoker is such a class act.
Roddick gets an A+ for his phenomenal play against Roger and for his courage and sense of humour.
Kolya gets A++ for breaking out and becoming a star in a very natural and unaffected way.

Posted by topboy 04/10/2008 at 01:04 AM

Just when I thought it wasn't possible for anyone to outdo sheshe, Fran just did it! Let's also grade whose girlfriend/wife is hotter too when we're at it and incorporate it into the rankings.

Have I walked into a twilight zone or is everyone else drinking too much Kool Aid???

Posted by Fran 04/10/2008 at 01:10 AM

Topboy;
your perception is just that;your perception.
You missed the point;if Steve can give out grades based on irrational criteria then so can the rest of us.

Posted by calbearo 04/10/2008 at 01:28 AM

I think Djokovic is definitely a recipient of grade inflation for this first quarter. He has done well with two big titles, but he has also fallen flat on his face twice, which is a pattern by the way that Steve apparently doesn't want to see. This makes the third consecutive time now that he has fallen flat after a big win - first match exits at Cincinnati, Marseille and Miami after wins at Montreal, AO and IW. I think this shows that unless something dramatically changes in him, he is unlikely to be the type of dominating player that RF has been. I certainly can't see how he gets an A+ for this quarter of the season.

Posted by topboy 04/10/2008 at 01:41 AM

Calbearo:

Falling flat in Marseille is completely irrelevant in a grand scheme of the season so far considering it's not a major tournament and Nole came in sick after Davis Cup. He didn't want to pull out due to his commitment to the organizers who flew him in on a private jet just so he'd play. He was still suffering from flu.

Matter of fact is, he performed the best at the best tournaments.
He followed up very well his AO win by winning the first masters and that's what matters after all. Only Miami slightly tarnishes his record that would bring him down to an A, but nonetheless he's still the cream of the crop (has anyone looked at the Race points?!?).

Fran,

No, my perception is based on facts involving the tennis that's been played for the past 3 months including who won the major, masters, who's got the best record, who's been overall consistent. Yours on the other hand is questionable to say the least.

Posted by zolarafa 04/10/2008 at 03:12 AM

topboy
***I don't understand why are Rafa fans complaining? And some want him graded the best of the 1st quarter. ***

not so fast! back up your comment with some facts. Who wanted Rafa to be graded the best of the first quarter?

It is very interesting and also disappointing that anything short of praise for Djokovic, becomes a SERBS and others war zone! World war III! Stop it and get back to tennis! We are commenting on players not nations.

Posted by jabeau 04/10/2008 at 03:28 AM

"but he’s been steamrolled out of each by lower-ranked players. I suppose this is what we’ll continue to get from Nadal on the hard stuff"

Rafa is the second highest ranked player so obviously everybody is ranked lower than him, except Federer. He was beaten by an inspired Tsonga at AO, then Djokovic #3 and Davydenko #4. He's still one of the top hardcourt players steamrolled or not. He is second in the race with the highest win/loss ratio.

Posted by fedex 1 04/10/2008 at 04:19 AM

According to you Steve, we can give out gradingd depending on our likes and dislikes.
HEre's how mine goes...
Federer- A+..... he suffered with mono, and recovered in time to play tennis's best, Sampras
Djokovic- I'm being fair... I'll give him a C. Or an F. You chhose. I mean, his whole game is based on being arrogant and his family lives to win!

Posted by love tennis 04/10/2008 at 04:24 AM

steve,
i think youve overrated and underrated some people. Give federer some credit. I doubt if you would have given him a A+ in 2006. There would have been something with him which you didn't appreciate. I mean, give him some credit. he deserves it. He's on the Tennis Hall of Fame, Djokovic isn't, so who do you think deserves a good grading for themselves more? Someone whose dedicated to their game, or someone whose there to win.

But if Djokovic or Ivanovic did not win a single title in a year, you'd probably still rate them in the A's.

Posted by luvfederer 04/10/2008 at 04:28 AM

Hey Steve,
sorry to say, but I and A LOT of other people totally disagree with your graidngs,. especially on the Djoker.
He let his DC team, walking off the court- in other words- preventing his country from continuing and WINNING(VERY important for him).
Maybe next time you should consider all statistics for EVERYONE while; grading them.
Cheers

Posted by 04/10/2008 at 05:25 AM

Nole won first slam in 20, and IW...and you have complain on A+?!

Posted by tommy 04/10/2008 at 06:30 AM

Steve, you had to be drunk when you typed this up.
Sharapova won the AO without losing a set and is 19-1.
And you give her the same grade as 2 other players who were in the AO draw?
What does Sharapova have to do to get a fair grade, go undefeated?

Posted by sayWhatWeWantToHear 04/10/2008 at 08:04 AM

zolarafa - i can't agree with giving rafa an A-. A for effort - sure, but he was badly outplayed in all his losses thus far. who you beat is important, but so is how you lose. tsonga AO, djoko, davydenko all beat him handily. at no point did he look like he could win those matches. i remember reading posts with his fans hoping the other guy would stop playing so well, B+

Posted by anon 04/10/2008 at 08:06 AM

ranking pts to be given for davic cup from 2009 onwards:
http://www.atptennis.com/1/en/2008news/davis_atppoints.asp

Posted by Master Ace 04/10/2008 at 08:29 AM

Zolarafa,
Yes to your question earlier in this post. Like this moniker.

WTA grades from my earlier posts:
Henin B
Ivanovic A
Jankovic B
Sharapova A
S Williams A

As they say, bring on the dirt

Posted by rudy3 04/10/2008 at 08:35 AM

There is no doubt that Djoko earns an A...he impressively won the first slam of the season, then won the first Master's, again impressively.

But, he did walk off the court in the Davis Cup, thus eliminating his team and his country from the competition.
And on a side note...Djokovic instills emmense pride in his country. And rightly so. But I do not understand how his fans and Serbian supporters let him have a free pass on that one. He just walked off the court. He was even up in the match. He should be held accountable for that one.

Posted by Rich 04/10/2008 at 08:51 AM

What is going on with Vaidisova? Is she distracted by her supposed engagement with Stepanek??

She has potential but her temperament has always been rocky in the tight moments and her backhand is a big weakness. There's something strangely awkward about the technique; she pulls up and hits it tall.

Ivanovic had the same issue but she's learned how to stay down and hit through it more consistently.

That being said, she's still very young and has tons of time.

Posted by Rachael 04/10/2008 at 08:52 AM

for the most part, I agree with some of the more contested grades given out here.

Fed, Nadal - why should they have any more than a B/B+? Federer hasn't made it to a final, no matter how 'convincing' some of his losses have been. Nadal hasn't taken a title yet. doesn't it render an A grade meaningless if it's being handed out to players who aren't achieving what they should be?
personally, I'm happy that this quarter hasn't been utterly dominated but the top 1 or 2. it has been an interesting start to the year, and far more exciting than if Roger and Rafa were just dividing up the spoils amongst themselves.
fans just need to bear in mind that there's so much of the year left in which these two will get back to A+


Roddick - I might be 99% biased but I concur with the B+ grade. infact, I would bump it down to a straight B if that wasn't the grade Federer was at. Andy's wins have been huge, but his losses have been a little baffling. Kohlschreiber was a tough 5 setter, and Roddick battled off 4 match points, but it should have never been that close in any case. I also felt towards the end of his KB appearance he was too reliant on serve. and he didn't exactly demolish his opponents at the SAP Open.
ultimately he's had an undeniably good run, good for morale if nothing else, but it isn't likely to carry over on to clay-court. an advance to the final in Miami would've went a long way to solidifying his current game as more than than just a lucky streak against some under-performers.
I am looking forward to him getting back on grass - but he's going to have some STRONG competition.


Djokovic - A+ might sound lofty, but so do his achievements. those arguing about his early defeats in Rotterdam and Key Biscane seem to also be arguing that Federer get A++++ for a much worse YTD. what Djokovic has achieved in the first quarter shouldn't be underestimated. he's not going to suddenly be undefeated, but this year certainly shows that he's got the power to dominate when the time is right. if Federer fans can blame mono for his losses and still credit him with an A game, then Djokovic's retirement from DC and near-hospitalization shouldn't affect his grade too much.
I'd go for a straight A. he's not quite at the top just yet.


inclusion of Gasquet is a mystery though.
Tsonga, Murray, Nalbandian... all seem to have made a bigger impact in this quarter, the latter two having actually managed to bag titles.
I'm interested to see how Gasquet fairs up this weekend - and yes, I'm hoping for some retribution for Roddick - but so far he has not shapen up to be a forerunner for anything this year.

Posted by Missy 04/10/2008 at 08:53 AM

How about give Rafa more credit..?

Posted by Rosangel 04/10/2008 at 08:57 AM

After further thought, I've come to the conclusion that although Davydenko was awarded an A-, he was probably only one match away from being awarded a B or even less - i.e. if he hadn't won Miami, the rest of his year was unimpressive. So I think the major titles are obviously a big weight in Steve's "system" of grading - it's the only reason for Davydenko being awarded any kind of A grade. Personally I would have given Djokovic an A due to a degree of inconsistency, but whatever the grade, he was clearly top of the class, and a Slam and a Masters are what will be remembered about this quarter.

Meanwhile, Rafa did show consistency in going deep into important tournaments, and was probably one match away from being an A-; that is, if he had beaten either Tsonga at the AO to reach a HC final (and, one would hope, putting up a decent performance in the final), or Davydenko in Miami. Maybe even if he had managed to pull off a win against Djoker at Indian Wells.

No excuses for his failure to win those matches, particularly the first two. WIth Tsonga, Djoker and Davydenko, each time he was beaten by one of the tournament's "form" players. Djoker was the obvious favourite to win that match; the other two were playing above their normal levels, as shown by their other performances in those tournaments.

The stats in the Youzhny match were embarrassingly bad. It was the worst defeat of his career. However, I think there is at least a reasonable explanation for the manner of that particular loss - namely an epic four-hour semifinal against Moya less than 24 hours beforehand, in which both players were playing full-out, and during which he saved four match points (three in a row on Moya's serve, at one stage in the second set). I think, though, that the reason it's being included in the recent pattern is because there have been several one-sided losses, including two defeats at the hands of a hot Nalbandian late in 2007 (again, each following on the heels of a hard-fought win - against Murray and then Baghdatis in Paris).

I doubt that Steve saw the (for a fan, puzzling) loss to Seppi in Rotterdam, but I was right there, and he somehow managed to lose the match after winning the first set reasonably comfortably. He seemed to go on a mental walkabout and completely lose focus at the start of the third set, went down two breaks, broke Seppi back when he was serving for the match the first time (in probably the best game he played all match, saving at least one match point), held serve, and then, of course, Seppi held on for the win.

I think Rafa has taken a few tough defeats in recent months, and he needs to pull off a convincing title for some of the old confidence to come back.

Posted by felizjulianidad 04/10/2008 at 08:58 AM

Steve, I'm sorry you have so many angry fans yelling at you for giving grades out. I can't even imagine what it's like to be in a teacher's shows and having to face parents after the first quarter conferences--I guess that's why in most places, grades aren't public!

Then again, I don't know how much you're paid to write all this. I can certainly get yelled at for what I write, because of its rather high monetary impact.

I agree mainly with the following three claims: grade inflation for Djokovic, Davydenko and Roddick.

Why?
1. For a guy who has stated that his career goal is to be number one, the emergence of a disturbing trend (first round bow-outs on your favourite surface after a big win the previous week) is a serious career obstacle. It raises heavy doubts. An "A" suggests no doubt.

2. I have no clue what the hel* Davydenko has done this spring apart from win Miami. I don't think it all adds up.

3. Roddick has won two events that are light on points (I live in Dubai and it's a glorified exhibition, where the player who gives the most is Feliciano López). Conversely, on the BIG events, he was pummelled out early in the biggest by a player who has been unable to replicate the same form, got cocky after a big quarterfinal win in the last one, and had an early exit in other. Heavy grade inflation. Getting points for beating Federer... is just not the same when "Federer losses" are being sold bulk-rate, at discount prices.

Posted by felizjulianidad 04/10/2008 at 09:03 AM

Corrections: teacher's shoes, and what I write for my dayjob. Not what I write here, which is mostly an embarassment.

Posted by Voks 04/10/2008 at 09:38 AM

It looks like Steve is grading according to players respective potentials and abilities, as well as circumstances. I agree with the grades.

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