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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Comments
 
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Posted by zonie 04/10/2008 at 09:38 AM

Some people seem very upset at some of these scores, but for the most part I agree with them. Yes, they are subjective, but if we want purely objective, there are the race and ranking points.

Djokovic is far from my favorite player, but for this quarter he undoubtedly earned an A. Even with his first-round loss at Miami, he and his fans have to be more than satisfied with this first quarter.

Federer, whether because of mono and/or other factors, had a so-so quarter and thus deserves a so-so grade. I think B is appropriate.

Nadal's case, for me, is the most perplexing. He has had some good wins and also some very bad losses. His hard court game is improving, but I think it is still a work in progress and at times he has trouble coming up with the right tactics. As much as I am a fan, I think B+ is appropriate.

Davydenko deserves an A if only for 'exceeding expectations'. Whoever thought that he would be holding up one of the springs master shields in a tournament with all the big guys playing and taking down two of his nemesis along the way?

As for Gasquet, I suspect that the reason that Steve included him, with such a low grade by the way, is because of what was expected from him and what he produced. Steve's description highlights the problem with this player, who has so many attributes, but seems incapable of bringing forth that will to win.

Anyway, I will not comment on the WTA scores, since I do not follow women's tennis much.

Posted by Voks 04/10/2008 at 09:46 AM

As for Nadal, if those losses were not beat-downs, Id give him streight A, for the hard-court improvements and generally improvement from last years results. But he was beat down in the finals or SF (i dont count Roterdam) by Youzny (all right, he was tired), by Tsonga (clear beat-down, he could have done better), by Novak (he was tired here also, but its more that his opponent seemed un-sweated), by Davy (nothing to say here really). Anyway it is clear B+ in my book.

Posted by Voks 04/10/2008 at 09:56 AM

For Djokovic, its A+, and if he'd won Miami, it would be A++ in my book. Almost everyone were saying "sophomore slump" at the end of last year, like "he is due for a letdown". Well, what did we get? A guy who ate his opponents at AO, lost to on fire Roddick at Dubai, wins PLO and by the looks of him it appeared like he had done it many times over! (and don't bring me the Waw match or three sets against Fish, please), and gets complacent or drunk or too tired form having sex with Sharapova the night before Miami, and KA barely wins with huge serving (as I understood). Also, someone pointed ot DC vs Russia. I saw that match vs Davy - Fed at AO looked better than Djoko in Moscow.

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

To Fed Id give B+. Mono id hamper him and that is a fact. So the grading should (I guess) be given according to "how good was he last year and before", and "how successful was he with dealing with this mono stuff and age stuff, and mental baggage stuff and personal-related rumors and pressure and media..." all int the lights of his opponents improving (losing aura) and the given draws.

For me, if he had given much more against Fish, not necessaraly winning, but making it close, it would have been clear A. in my book that is.

Posted by zolarafa 04/10/2008 at 10:19 AM

Master Ace,
I am so happy I found the Wizard!

saywhatyouwanttosay
***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.***

Well, I don't agree, but that's at least a criteria. Now it would be good if you apply it to others too. For example Djoko's loss to the qualifier Anderson. At least Tsonga won other top players in AO and played the final. How does he get a A+ for that?

I always enjoyed reading the reports in tennis.com. It is easy to write them when one player sweeps all the prizes. At times like this, when there is a big mix, writing an objective report becomes even more important and we have not seen one yet!

Posted by Voks 04/10/2008 at 10:27 AM

--- Well, I don't agree, but that's at least a criteria. Now it would be good if you apply it to others too. For example Djoko's loss to the qualifier Anderson. At least Tsonga won other top players in AO and played the final. How does he get a A+ for that? ----

Djoko loss vs KA is not enough to shadow what he has done this year. There would be more reasons to de-grade him if he had, for example, suffered a beatdown to one of his rivals, like murray, or nadal, or baghdatis or someone like that. Season is long and hard for everyone, and it seems that for Djoko it is even more (cause of the age and success and "fragile" fitness). I dont know what you wrote at the beginning of the season, but I doubt that you predicted Djokos results that have happened.

Posted by harini 04/10/2008 at 10:39 AM

i agree with most of the grades. for Djoko i'd give him an A, not A+. i think he's been having a great year so far but since i'm a bit biased, i do think his loss to kevin anderson should have been calculated in his final grade.

Rafa, i'd give him an A- 'cos i mean--he's done so well on the hard courts! the finals in chennai and miami were absolutely dismal but taking those out, i think he's done fairly well, especially after some of the tough matches he played en route to the semis and finals.

i'm ok with the others. i do wish tsonga had gotten a mention since he's been having a really good year. pity he's not playing DC this week!

Posted by zolarafa 04/10/2008 at 10:54 AM

Voks,
see, it is A+, because you want it to be. You are willing to oversee loss of 500 points and a defeat by the defending champion, just because you like Djoko. He can get an A or A-. But A+ is perfect record. To me, a walk away from DC and a beat down as the defending champion is not perfect record. By the same token, I can say, since Rafa did much better than last year, I am willing to oversee his losses to Djoko and Davydenko....just doesn't work that way!

I think I am going to stick to ATP race until there is a better alternative !

Posted by Floridapaul 04/10/2008 at 11:01 AM

Steve, I think your comment on the Federer-Roddick match was unfair to both players. Federer played many dazzling shots from both the foecourt and the baseline, did you not watch his reflex volleys? Of course, his baseline play was ordinary by his standards, and his sudden unravelling at the end was out of character, but Roddick played with great fire and courage and deserved to win at the end. Check out the winners-to-unforced errors stats for both palyers; it was a quality match.

Posted by agillera 04/10/2008 at 11:08 AM

I think Roddick could get A for his affort and will to win against Roger at Sony Erricssion Open and gets F for his behaviors on court while playing the German at the OA. He is such a low class on his act toward the chair umpire. You're supposed to be graceful when you loss. Take Federer and Nadal for their class act Roddick!!!

Posted by Master Ace 04/10/2008 at 11:10 AM

Justine w/d from Charleston:

http://tinyurl.com/33jgw9

Posted by Voks 04/10/2008 at 11:41 AM

point taken zolorafa. "A" it is. Its just that he went over my expectasions (and Im heavily biased here, so thats gotta cloud my judgement);)

Posted by sayWhatWeWantToHear 04/10/2008 at 11:42 AM

I wouldn't give Tsonga an A+, I'd give him a B. He's shown flashes of greatness and some inexperience in his choke loss to Nadal. B seems fair to me.

Expectations play a part in my assessment of a player. Reaching semis and one final, then subsequently getting trounced by the form player of the week, is not deserving of an A grade for the #2 player in the world. His consistency to at least put himself in the later rounds of tournaments, and then subsequently get trounced by the form player of the week, deserves a B+ imho. Fatigue is a factor, but with a better serve and more assertive tactics he would arrive in the latter rounds with more in the tank. Is fatigue a valid excuse if his chosen style makes it almost inevitable?

Fed's had a disappointing start by his standards. But under the circumstances, I think he was prudent to continue playing and accrue what points he can as he works his way back to his year-end form. B-

Djoko gets an A. He's played the best tennis so far this year, his fitness is still an issue and I don't see him winning back-to-back tournaments any time soon.

Posted by andrea 04/10/2008 at 12:01 PM

roddick had to win against federer. think about it. old number 98 mardy fish beat him a week prior. if roddick couldn't do it, there would have been some serious egg on his face.

Posted by sayWhatWeWantToHear 04/10/2008 at 12:02 PM

Davydenko gets an A+ just for being awesome, and soldiering on in the face of unsubstantiated accusations and general under-appreciation.

How many bagels has Nadal baked on clay, anybody know?

Posted by 04/10/2008 at 12:17 PM

Voks,
***point taken zolorafa. "A" it is. Its just that he went over my expectasions (and Im heavily biased here, so thats gotta cloud my judgement);) ***

No one can undermine Djoko's achievements in the quarter. He is No 1 in ATP race with over 300 points. But then Rafa is second in his efforts, Davdenko is third and Tsonga is fourth. Roddick is next , followed by Federer and I think that's a fair measure of their success.

of course ATP race does not weigh the win/lose by rankings. For exapmle Roddick or Murray or Fish's win over No 1., Seppi/Tsonga's win over No 2, etc. but at least treats all the players with the same standard. Something that I think is missing in Steve and Tom's reports.

Posted by zolarafa 04/10/2008 at 12:18 PM

oops, that was me @ 12:17!
by the way VOKS: :) and lol!

Posted by orly 04/10/2008 at 12:28 PM

thats true where did you get those numbers Nadal at least got in the final here and there Djoko jerko didnt the same with Federer with side are you at???

Posted by Tratratra 04/10/2008 at 01:15 PM

Djokovic: Even if he doesn't play anymore, or if he loses in every 1st round, he'll get his A+... You know: "protected ranking for the protected guy".
I don't know if his mother "buy" the journalists... I can't understand why they "love him" that much!!! He's so arrogant! (ok, poor guy...with that arrogant family, we can't expect the opposite!;)

Posted by Voks 04/10/2008 at 01:17 PM

***dial "M" for ......***!!!

Posted by Rachael 04/10/2008 at 01:29 PM

seriously, since when did a player's personality have so much of an impact on grading their abilities?
negative and irresponsible behaviour on-court being objected to I can understand, but there's been so many sneaky little digs at players for having confidence, having support (the whole Djokovic family thing for example. it kills me.) or for having opinions off-court.

unless these things were magically the main contributor to a big loss or a big win, then aren't they the type of factor to be overlooked in these instances...
performance is key!

Posted by Voks 04/10/2008 at 02:03 PM

“I owe Gasquet one from last year, and I look forward to that opportunity,” said the American number six who beat Roger Federer in last week's Miami quarter-finals.
.......

nothing causes blisters better than reading this.

Posted by Irving 04/10/2008 at 02:13 PM

Methinks a B is to generous for Federer. For a player this great to have only 2 semifinals as his best showings after 4 tournaments is pretty bad by his standards. Mitigating factors or not, it's worthy of a no more than a C. Well below potential.

Posted by srdjan 04/10/2008 at 02:27 PM

ou OBVIOUSLY LOVE the SERBS. It is so transparant. Djockavic (however you spell his sorry name) have you guys whippe.

[Moderator edited - expletives and insults to other posters are not permitted. Please make your points in another way].

djokovic is the man, he is the only hope of tennis..

nadal is hardworker n rednex...

Posted by calbearo 04/10/2008 at 02:40 PM

topboy responded to my post above by dismissing Djokovic's poor performance at Marseille by saying it's not a top tournament, so that doesn't really count in the grand scheme. Now I agree that the slams are most important, followed by the masters followed by all other events. I'm not even a Fed fan, but what was so amazing about him was that he was consistently dominating from event to event. Djokovic is a tough player and truly an amazing talent, but I think he gets physically and mentally spent. That has clearly been his pattern, and regardless of what you think of Marseille, Cincinnatti and Miami are big tournaments. Tournaments that he basically didn't show up in. He may have gotten the flu earlier in the season, I guess he's probably the only player on tour who has gotten the flu this year. Staying healthy and being able to play through some levels of illness/injury (which all of these players have to do) is part of what seperates the best. Djokovic will almost certainly be able to get #1 at some point, but I will bet that he will continue to be limited by an inability to remain mentally and physically healthy over the course of a season.

People like to rag on Rafa's decline over the later half of last season. I think that had more to do with him having to play on a surface he isn't the best at. Many of those same people are willing to overlook how Djokovic bowed out without a fight after his three biggest victories to date and how he finished last season with a whimper.

Djokovic clearly had the best early hardcourt season out there. I think the other remarkable thing to come out of this year is how Rafa has, IMO, demonstrated that he is currently the second best hardcourt player on the tour as well. Fed may regain his form and vault back to the top by this summer, but the results are what they are. Rafa has been beaten by several guys and hasn't won a title yet, but he is on average, the second best player and hardcourts right now. 2 finals and 2 SFs at this point in the year is not insignificant. I don't think the B+ is an inaccurate grade though, precisely because he didn't win any titles and I definitely feel (I imagine he does as well) like he left several hundred points on the court by not winning Miami and losing early at Rotterdam. Maybe he should get an A- for consistency that nobody else has been able to show this year, but I'm fine w/ the B+.

Posted by acid 04/10/2008 at 02:46 PM

it s really weird, how piple in this blog hate djoker...

chill out fed and rafa fanatics, ...

Posted by Rachael 04/10/2008 at 03:02 PM

blisters. oh dear.

as a complete aside: does anybody know where webstreaming of DC ties can be found? live scores just aren't going to cut it this time round.

Posted by sandra 04/10/2008 at 03:04 PM

don't know if his mother "buy" the journalists... I can't understand why they "love him" that much!!! He's so arrogant! (ok, poor guy...with that arrogant family, we can't expect the opposite!;)

what is your problem?

u r poor little person, u dont know anything about tennis,and u wrote blshits....

Posted by sayWhatWeWantToHear 04/10/2008 at 03:12 PM

*leaves room... :|

Posted by zolarafa 04/10/2008 at 03:25 PM

Voks
***“I owe Gasquet one from last year, and I look forward to that opportunity,” said the American number six who beat Roger Federer in last week's Miami quarter-finals.
.......

nothing causes blisters better than reading this.****

priceless!
If I rememebr correctly he replied something to Tsonga as well!

Posted by Miss Kiss 04/10/2008 at 03:39 PM

Hmm. Have not entirely followed all the discussion, but am not sure why there needs to be a hard-and-fast criteria for tennis "grades." I never take grading as anything more than a different-than-usual way to organize an editorial. It's not as if Steve giving Fed a B affects the Wimbledon draw. Without those letters at the end of the paragraphs it would just be "notes on the season" and there would probably be less controversy (though still disagreement. This is the internet, after all.)

Posted by topboy 04/10/2008 at 04:29 PM

@ zolarafa:

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.

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


I disagree. I think unfair criticism brings out the defense of Djokovic because as you can see from many of the posters on this forum, his performance is graded alongside other criteria that are not the point of discussion - and that is just not fair. He was the best player of the first quarter and that's a fact hence he deserves the best grade (like I mentioned above, A, not an A+).

@ Calbearo:
This is only Djokovic's 2nd season as one of the top players. His last year burnout was due to the fact that he played more matches in 2007 than in all the previous years on tour. He was unprepared for the success that he had mentally and also physically. Many have already dismissed him and thought he wouldn't be able to follow up this year, but he has again exceeded expectations. I think this year he's being much smarter about scheduling and peaking his form for the main events (i.e. skipping Estoril), so I will hold my judgement until the end of the season to see if he's improved in that regard.
He had the unfortunate flu during DC (that let's not forget affected the entire Serbian team) which also affected his play in Marseille, so I repeat, I'm not putting too much emphasis on that loss. Roddick and Anderson losses are legitimate and there are no excuses for the latter for a top player like Djokovic.

Posted by M-life 04/10/2008 at 04:46 PM

Samantha-
I think a B- for Justine for this year is just about right. With high standards comes high expectations. Justine has under performed well below her standards. Furthermore- grades should never be based on what others have or are doing, but on what the indidvule has or is doing. So saying Federer or Jankovic has done this or that is imaterial, totally imaterial for Justine. Justine has to graded based on Justine's performance vs the expections she and we the fans have of her. I know you don't like hearing it but she has been pretty mediocre. I really can't see any "media bias" on that one. Quit your whinning and play better, then you'll/she gets a better grade.

Patrick-
I don't think the fact that Henin may or may not have a knee problem should give her bonus points. If she's to injured to play, or that it may have an adverse effect on on her when she's on the court, well- then she shouldn't play. To say that she deserves a higher grade than she her performance merits because of credit given to her for playing on a possible bad knee- no way guy. You either perform, or you don't. Extra credit given for this or for that is chicken bleep. Justine earned herself a B-. Basta. And just so you know how I feel about it, I think Chaki has earned herself a C at best. A strong argument can be made for a maybe a C-. While the burglery over the summer has undoubtly has had an effect on her performance, and her poor play is somewhat understandable, that cannot imo be factored into her grade. At least that's how I see it.

Posted by Master Ace 04/10/2008 at 05:07 PM

M-Life,
If we go by performance alone on the court, here are my grades:
Henin B- : Sydney and Antwerp titles
Ivanovic A- : IW champion and AO finalist
Sharapova A+ : AO and Doha champion and IW SF
S Williams A- : KB and Bangalore champion
Jankovic B- : KB finalist
Kuznetsova B- : Sydney, Dubai, and IW finalist

Posted by Eve A. 04/10/2008 at 05:33 PM

M-life,
I must say that I disagree with you wholeheartedly in your responses to Samantha. I'll continue to use Henin as an example, because she's strikes me as the player with the oddest grade in relation to some of the others around her.
In Henin's case, despite her lower-than-expected level of play, she has still had a solid year, with two titles, and she has beaten (and lost to) quality competition. As I noted in an earlier post that Steve grades her lower than Federer (and Jankovic) strikes me as a little odd, and I would like to hear more from him about this.
For anyone who missed it, here's how the three of them match up:
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.
Jankovic - 20-7 record, 0 titles, $827,598 prize money. Losses to Vaidisova (QF), Sharapova (SF), Li Na (QF), Kuznetsova (SF), Yan Zi (QF), Ivanovic (SF) and Williams (F).
When we're looking at subjective things like player performances, I think you have to look at players' performances in relation to each other. Are Henin's three losses and two titles really that bad if Sharapova and Serena haven't lost one match each and won the biggest tournaments the women have played so far?

Posted by PM 04/10/2008 at 08:59 PM

What a bunch of hysterical posts on Djokovic! So now the entourage, parents, personality, hair, etc. of the player should be taken into account in determining grades on *performance*?

The three top men's tournaments so far were AO (by far), IW, and Miami. Another important one was Dubai. If we focus on the top three in assigning grades, we easily see that Djokovic won two of the titles (defeating No. 1 in AO and No. 2 in IW, both times in straights) and that he got further in Dubai than either Federer or Nadal. True, he did not defend his Miami title and flunked out, but I think he still deserves an A. He's been performing the best this year, and he needs to work on his mental consistency and resilience as he goes through the tournaments. As for Marseille and DC, both are irrelevant as Marseille was a tank and DC he was obviously quite ill and was nearly hospitalized. And when did DC suddenly become the most important tournament, to be compared with KB, IW, and AO? Some objectivity, please!

For the women, Sharapova should get an A+ (it is a slam victory and a comeback, afterall), Ivanovic an A (AO final and IW), and Serena an A- (Miami and obviously a lot of potential in the next few months).

Posted by svelterogue 04/10/2008 at 09:09 PM

hi steve and the rest

i have to say i enjoyed reading your article and am somewhat surprised at the heat you're getting for jazzing up an opinion article with the framework of grades. as a teacher myself i tend to put more premium on the evaluation process than the actual mark itself... so count me among those who agrees with the general "trend" of your grades, steve.

as a rafa fan, i would have flunked my boy. :)

voks and zonie are paragons of calm and rational thought, no? gotta love them!

thanks for the space, steve.

Posted by Whoever 04/10/2008 at 09:20 PM

How do you compare Henin and Federer and say one should have any grade as compared with the other. If you did that Federer would be graded A+ and Henin F-. Look at the difference in the level of competition between men's and women's tennis. There is no comparison. If you want to grade women againt women fine but saying Henin should have such and such a grade as compared to Federer is just too funny.

Posted by Whoever 04/10/2008 at 09:29 PM

Comparing Henin and Federer is like comparing a great little league baseball player with the Yankees A-Rod.

Posted by king 04/10/2008 at 09:43 PM

cool

Posted by zolarafa 04/10/2008 at 11:38 PM

topboy
That was my response to one of your comments above. In all fairness, I think others can also put the serb thing behind. Judging Djokovic and his family is something else. he brought that upon himself, much like Sharapova's dad. Still, should have nothing to do with his grading. That should be based on his performance.

And based on his performance, I think A+ is too much. Because he was not perfect throughout the first quarter. But he deserves an A or A-.Still the best results of the first quarter.

Posted by zonie 04/10/2008 at 11:55 PM

Hi Svelte.

Thanks for the kind words.

I had to laugh at your wanting to flunk Rafa. As a fan of his myself, I kind of feel the same way, just because I expected better from him in that horrid Miami final. I'm really happy for Davy, but: geez Rafa...

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/11/2008 at 12:16 AM

Right Eve.

Posted by london 04/11/2008 at 12:30 AM

What about Venus?

I would give her a B-, even though she is my favorite player, she has been struggling to form. She also is having trouble with higher ranked opponents. I agree with everything else, though, except Vaidisova. I would give her a C- at best. What happpened to her?
Please post about my comment and visit www.virtualgamersdigest.blogspot.com for more writings about tennis from me. Toots!

Posted by Viswanath 04/11/2008 at 04:15 AM

Why does Rafael Nadal get only B+. he has been performing consistently

Posted by Charles 04/11/2008 at 06:08 AM

I agree with whoever said that we've got the Race if we want to look at objective performances. This grading thing is far more fun because it's so subjective. Personally, I'd like to grade players on how they've done according to what might have been expeced of them at the start of the quarter and considering the circumstances they've faced.

Like Tsonga--this guy deserves an A+ Think about where he was on January 1st. He's like tripled his career earnings in 3 months, become a household name (among tennis fanatics) and become a serious force to be reckoned with. Wow!! I think he's totally blown the top off even his own expectations...

Djokovic is another one. He beat Federer and won the AO! Wow! right there, wow! plus he did it all over at IW. Yeah, he's inconsistent--but what he's done the last 3 months compared to what he's done before is amazing! Djo is in that phase of his career--Step 1 learn to win the big one, Step 2 learn to be consistent. Let's not forget that Fed was no different... after beating the 4-time defending champ at Wimby, Fed loses his next match--then a year later at Wimby - out in the 1R. A few years later he wins Wimby and then falls in the 4R at USO. Djo's inconsistency now is by no means an indication of future inconsistency--he might be, he might not be, we're about to find out...

I liked Steve including Gasquet, too--yikes, what a disappointment, just when you think he's harnessing his talent, he falls apart--he's consistent at that, anyway...

Davydenko, too, has exceed expectations this year. Beating Nadal and ARod after losing to both 5 or 6 times and no wins--he really pulled it together. I gotta hand it to him for his mental toughness. A lot of players would've used this scandal as an excuse to pack up and go home or get demoralized. If I were his teacher I'd give him an A for finally pulling it off--he might even have exceeded his talent--hard to say--he's a slow study and might keep getting better, but the guy has been impressive.

would've liked to see Kuzie graded... she's been reasonably consistent but can't finish--give her a B anyway, cause she wins almost all the matches she should...

Posted by Amit 04/11/2008 at 04:34 PM

In all fairness, I think Federer should be left out of this grading discussion altogether. At least up until the point where the mono is not an active item of argument.

Let's just assume that he is sitting out the season thus far :)

Posted by Amit 04/11/2008 at 04:37 PM

In all fairness, I think Federer should be left out of this grading discussion altogether. At least up until the point where the mono is not an active item of argument.

Let's just assume that he is sitting out the season thus far :)

Posted by london 04/11/2008 at 10:14 PM

WHAT ABOUT VENUS!?!

WHY DOESN'T SHE GET A GRADE? I'LL TELL YOU IT IS BECAUSE YOU ARE BUYEST TO THE OTHER LOW RATE TALENT AND HAVE NO HEART. except serena of course. thank you and good night.

Posted by joy 04/11/2008 at 10:52 PM

Glandular Feverer gets an A++ for doing tennis fans a much needed favor by knocking Lord King Rojah off his throne. Tennis is so much better to watch now without his royal swiss ego getting in the way.


"I think Roddick could get A for his affort and will to win against Roger at Sony Erricssion Open and gets F for his behaviors on court while playing the German at the OA. He is such a low class on his act toward the chair umpire. You're supposed to be graceful when you loss. Take Federer and Nadal for their class act Roddick!!!"
::::::

lol Some poor Federer fan is still smarting from the whipping Roddick handed their boy. I'm sorry but Roddick is much too classy to act like a petulant sore loser during press conferences the way Federer does, always refusing to give credit his opponent, preferring instead to call them a one dimensional joke, or give unwanted advice on how to play tennis. Roddick has too much respect for his opponents and would never stoop so low as that.

It's what players say and do off the court that matters most.

Posted by fifteenlove 04/11/2008 at 11:47 PM

"It's what players say and do off the court that matters most."

yeah.. because in the grand scheme of tennis achievements, the press conferences and statements to the media actually trump grand slam victories! for players who haven't won a grand slam out there.. remember, what you do off court matters most. you don't have to win any grand slams to enter HOF or be considered GOAT now.

steve, i wouldn't normally comment on gradings because it can be somewhat subjective, but djokovic falling totally flat in several tourmanets including DC HAS to be considered in your grading. fair enough, you're biased towards him (from the perspective of a fan, it's understandable) but do take off your kool-aid glasses at least for this post, will ya?

i would grade federer a C- or D, because he has been nothing but disappointing this season (i know, he's mono-man but i just can't help wondering if he's also mentally going away as well.)

Posted by fifteenlove 04/11/2008 at 11:48 PM

sorry, typo. tournaments*

Posted by Voks 04/12/2008 at 07:53 AM

"...several (tournaments) including DC HAS to be considered in your grading..."

I don't understand why is it so hard to understand: guy had a flu, he was barely moving. He gave his maximum in Moscow. No one of his supporters back here (in Serbia) and at TW is making an issue out of it. It eludes me why is it even mentioned by some.

Posted by fifteenlove 04/12/2008 at 08:40 AM

because when you grade a player, you don't just look at his achievements. AO and IW = superb. we know that. fullstop. but you take also into account his first round losses and his (whether intentional or not) tanking in other tournaments, and not simply declare them unimportant just because they're "minor" or "irrelevant". steve, why is IW a more important result compared to KB? because it came first, making his KB loss due to his schedule? it sure feels like it's because he WON it. had he lost IW and won Miami you would've just come up with a reason to diminish the IW loss and glorify the Miami win anyway.

Federer 2006 is an A+, by comparison Djokovic 2008 merits at most an A. Even comparing to the ladies (and i know that's not a fair comparison, but i'll mention it anyway) Sharapova has a 19-1 record with a GS (defeating the current 1,2,3 along the way) and a Tier I, gets an A. Fair enough, she hasn't defeated the williams sisters, plus WTA's depth ain't great. Djokovic, 17-4 with a GS and a MS (defeating 1,2 to both titles) but losing in the first round of TWO tournaments gets an A+? I still don't see it.

as for DC-flu, that's a thorny issue that has many perspectives and has already been done to death. i will no longer argue about it but i'm of the opinion that he should have at least completed the match. please don't bother to try to convince me otherwise.

Posted by fifteenlove 04/12/2008 at 08:45 AM

but of course, if it's barbell-curve scoring, meaning top of the class gets A+, then nole gets it. fair, no arguments there.

though if that's the case, the ladies should be judged the way same way, where maria gets hers, and serena coming in close 2nd.

Posted by Voks 04/12/2008 at 09:39 AM

no I wont (try to convince you otherwise). But even when I leave my biased shell, I still see only from one perspective - guy could not walk. fullstop.

as for tanking Marseille, agree with you there. And not to mention Miami... Those are all reasons to degrade someone, and thats the reason I changed my grade to straight A. It doesn't really matter - this grading stuff - but for the sake of argument, my view is that the appropriate merit should be subjective one; rather than objective, because we can than take Feds best fist quarter he ever had, and give no one the very best grade until such a result is repeated - and that might take time (years or decades even).

Subjective, on the other hand, takes into account the players abilities, history, potential, things he must deal with off court for example, health, injuries if there are some... I think Steve went along that line, but maybe his "biasness" interfered a bit...

whey to go Steve!!!!

Posted by Hiram 04/12/2008 at 12:12 PM

Fran --- A, good stuff
Rosangel ---A, thorough
Zonie --- B, balanced
Charles --- A, makin sense
London --- A, great creative spelling

Posted by koolkish 04/12/2008 at 06:39 PM

How can Serena possibly deserve an A-...yes, she is a great champion, no one can take that away from her. But she doesnt deserve to be compared to Ivanovic or Sharapova this year in my opinion. yes, she played well at KB and i'm glad to see that she will be part of the women's game again, but one tournament for me doesn't say much. Maria and Ana have been consistent all year, playing weekly or every other week. You know, if Serena is gonna play as much as those girls do, then fine--she deserves the A- you give her. But if she plays three tournaments all year and gets that A-, than i should try to play one tournament and see what grade you give me.

ps. that AO QF that Serena lost in was absolutely dreadful! she looked extremely lazy throughout that match and its about time that her lack of play catches up to her.

Posted by koolkish 04/12/2008 at 06:40 PM

How can Serena possibly deserve an A-...yes, she is a great champion, no one can take that away from her. But she doesnt deserve to be compared to Ivanovic or Sharapova this year in my opinion. yes, she played well at KB and i'm glad to see that she will be part of the women's game again, but one tournament for me doesn't say much. Maria and Ana have been consistent all year, playing weekly or every other week. You know, if Serena is gonna play as much as those girls do, then fine--she deserves the A- you give her. But if she plays three tournaments all year and gets that A-, than i should try to play one tournament and see what grade you give me.

ps. that AO QF that Serena lost in was absolutely dreadful! she looked extremely lazy throughout that match and its about time that her lack of play catches up to her.

Posted by joy 04/12/2008 at 07:50 PM

\"yeah.. because in the grand scheme of tennis achievements, the press conferences and statements to the media actually trump grand slam victories!\"

:::::

I wasn\'t talking about tennis achievements I was talking about the character of a person, and your character is judged by your everyday behavior off the court, not by your achievements on the court.

And don\'t you worry, Andy Roddick will be in the HOF, much to the consternation of Federer fanboys everywhere.

Posted by the gradings are wrong 04/13/2008 at 12:42 AM

give Federer, Sharapova and henein some credit. Your gradings are totally dominated by the Serbs

Posted by the gradings are wrong 04/13/2008 at 12:43 AM

give Federer, Sharapova and henein some credit. Your gradings are totally dominated by the Serbs

Posted by tennisrox 04/13/2008 at 12:45 AM

i agree with fifteen love. Federer deserves an A+.
sorry to say steve, but you'd need to receive an F for these gradings

Posted by PM 04/13/2008 at 02:30 AM

gradings are wrong: the only one that you mention that deserves "credit" is Sharapova, and he gave her an A. Federer hasn't won a title so far and has lost to Djokovic, Murray, Fish, and Roddick. And Henin was smashed at AO by Sharapova (including a bagel), she didn't show up at IW, and was smashed again in Miami by Serena (including another bagel). She and Federer absolutely deserved those grades and no better.

And get over the "Serb-favoritism." There's none of that by this author. Djokovic won AO and IW, and Ivanovic was finalist at AO and won IW. Both dropped out early in Miami. They at least deserve A's for their accomplishments this year, and it has nothing to do with the country they represent.

tennisrox: why should Federer get an A+ when he hasn't even gotten to a final in 2008?

Posted by fifteenlove 04/13/2008 at 02:51 AM

i said federer 2006 is an A+.
federer 2008 is a C or C-.

Posted by Jake 04/13/2008 at 08:13 AM

Steve, Federer honestly deserves a lower grade. He is basically out of it this go round and until Wimbledon rolls around, Rafa's gonna rule over the clay. Rafael Nadal WILL be number one in the world by the end of the clay season. Guaranteed.

Posted by dennis 04/13/2008 at 01:49 PM

roddick gets a b+? he beat roger federer for gods sakes
how many people can say that
why givhim a b+ not at least an A
and have you seen him play against llodra in the davis cup???

Posted by M 04/14/2008 at 02:07 AM

"roddick gets a b+? he beat roger federer for gods sakes
how many people can say that"

Would have been more impressive if he had beaten a full flight non-mono hangover Federer. As it is Roddick's victory is not that special considering Fish of al people completely dismantled him in IW.

Posted by booboo 04/14/2008 at 11:36 AM

"Would have been more impressive if he had beaten a full flight non-mono hangover Federer. As it is Roddick's victory is not that special considering Fish of al people completely dismantled him in IW."

How much longer are the bitter Fed fans going to use the mono excuse and try to discredit every player's win over their king Roger? It's getting old and pathetic. The fact is that Federer played much better vs Roddick in Miami than he did in IW with Fish plud with a huge mental advantage over Roddick, Andy's win was still pretty darn impressive. He played great.

Posted by rafaurafa 04/14/2008 at 12:15 PM

Why do we have contend with Roddick lovers being writers of the articles. Its enought to here them in the comments section. Roddick hasn´t got past quarters in any of the 3 big hard court tournaments ie the ones that matter. Now quarters in Rome is ggoing a little too far , I think rafa has got better odds of winning the grandslam than Roddick has of reaching the quarters on Clay. Also far too kind on Novak , If you take davis cup as a major tournament and include the season ending masters cup ( all in the last 5 months)then his record is not so great. Take your point about IW being significant because everyone was fresher. But remember if he wants rafa´s number 2 ranking he´s going to have go deep in back to back tournaments

Posted by rafurafa 04/14/2008 at 12:19 PM

Obviously I meant Roddick has only reached 1 semi final in the 3 big tournaments of the year!!!!

Posted by Jake 04/14/2008 at 03:40 PM

"Would have been more impressive if he had beaten a full flight non-mono hangover Federer. As it is Roddick's victory is not that special considering Fish of al people completely dismantled him in IW."

Look people, Federer is perfectly fine now. The mono hangover is gone by now and Federer just can't face the fact that he is LOSING!

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